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Dear People of Saints James and Andrew,
It has been nearly three years since the global pandemic began. There were moments in the first year of the pandemic, when many of us may have resonated with the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14. In the hard, lonely, and frustrating moments, we too, may have wanted to cry out to God, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”
Yet as a faith community, we have persistently and lovingly reminded one another, and the world around us, that God is always with us. That these dry moments are not when all is lost, but rather the cusp of new life emerging. In Ezekiel, God promises the community this new life, assuring them, “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live…”
After reflecting on this past year, the theme that surfaced was God’s holy breath, reviving our community, as we resumed many aspects of parish life and began new endeavors. It was a full, rich year, and the Spirit has been at work in our midst. We are excited to see where she will call our faith community in the year ahead. First, let us give thanks for these notable moments in 2022:
January and February
We had the opportunity to welcome all those who joined our parish during the pandemic with our special liturgy welcoming newcomers.
Georgia Katherine Whalen and Evelyn Jean Smith were both baptized and welcomed into the body of Christ. Bishop Doug Fisher made his annual visitation to our parish, where three members were confirmed, and another reaffirmed her faith.
We began a new monthly teaching sermon series, featuring a variety of topics from the sacraments and sacramental rites, to Anglicanism, daily prayer, scripture, creeds, and a special sermon on the Middle East by Rev. Ted Thornton.
March and April
Our beloved Choir resumed leading music in our weekly worship, while St. Andrew’s Guild resumed their weekly drop-in for community members to learn how to stitch, sew, or knit. We were also the recipients of another Bombas grant, allowing us to partner with other agencies and distribute over 3,000 socks throughout Franklin County.
We offered a new Lenten Meditation Walk, to reflect on our corporate brokenness when it comes to systemic racism and the climate crisis. The walk featured contemporary icons.
The Green Team began ringing our bell on the 11th of each month, at 11 a.m., for 11 minutes to raise the alarm about the climate crisis, along with other houses of worship.
We offered a new Community Easter Egg Hunt as a community outreach, with a small raffle and bake sale that raised $800 for our mission and outreach. Separately, we raised over $1,000 for the Ukraine Crisis Fund with Episcopal Relief and Development.
We adopted a flexible masking policy to help our parish navigate the ebb and flow of community covid transmission and resumed the common cup after two years of abstaining.
On Earth Sunday, the Youth Group and Green Team led us in a special worship service where our youth delivered the sermon, calling on us to care for creation.
May and June
The Garden Team resumed their twice a month gatherings of gardening and potluck; and due to the drought, they found creative ways to water and tend our gardens. Second Helpings resumed sit-down meals, while continuing to offer take-away meals; and we celebrated the seventh anniversary of Whitney’s Pantry.
We held a new special Juneteenth liturgy, cheered on Franklin County PRIDE parade, and welcomed the Bishop to bless our new pollinator garden. We blessed a new ordinary season frontal and paramounts made by St. Andrew’s Guild, featuring beautiful sheep.
After the Uvalde school shooting, we began a new initiative on the last Sunday of each month, Ringing for Remembrance. We begin our service by sharing the latest statistics, and then ringing the bell for one minute to remember those who have died from gun violence.
We also began a new fellowship gathering on the first Sunday of the month following worship, Coffee & Conversation. It started as an experiment in the summer months, and in the fall, new parishioner Karen Whelan-Berry became the organizer.
The clergy and vestry shared a special communication, reflecting on our parish’s shifting landscape as we look to the future, particularly with regard to buildings and staffing. We reduced the hours of the Parish Administrator to 15 hours a week, and acknowledged we wanted to be better stewards of Rev. Molly’s ⅓ time position, cutting back some of her responsibilities, while expanding her role offering lay preachers ongoing support.
July and August
The Property Committee facilitated several projects, including extensive slate roof repairs, the removal of all knob and tube in the rectory, and the installation of an iron railing at the entrance to the church. We are exploring how to address our deferred maintenance. Using Walker Pipe Organ, we began making some repairs and enhancements to our organ.
Over the summer, the Vestry held our first in-person meeting in over two years. It was wonderful to see one another in the flesh. Meanwhile our youth group went on a day long mission trip with youth from Grace, Amherst and St. Michael’s-on-the-Heights, Worcester. They handed out backpacks at Marie’s Mission, attended a Latin American Festival in Worcester, and visited St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer.
September and October
The Green Team kicked off a new series: Environmental Sundays. On the third Sunday of the month, they offer programming to help the community deepen our commitment to creation care. We also resumed an in-person blessing of the animals.
St. Andrew’s Guild stitchers once again went to extraordinary lengths to fundraise for our mission and outreach. They sold their wares at two Greenfield Farmers Markets, and other times during the year, raising well over $2,500.
The Vestry held an all day retreat facilitated by Rev. Cn. Rich Simpson, with all members in attendance. We reaffirmed our mission, core values, and identified priorities for moving forward. These include a plan to engage young families on how to best support one another; a property taskforce to look more closely at how to best care for and utilize our buildings for mission; and plan for the rector’s upcoming sabbatical (May-August 2023).
November and December
Over the summer and fall, we began to have youth acolytes serving on the altar once a month, and the Youth Group also enjoyed a special outing at Mike’s Maze.
Audley Robinson began to offer the parish a new virtual Morning Prayer on Wednesdays at 6:15 a.m., and our bell choir continued to enhance our worship with special offerings.
Our Digital Ministry Team faithfully live-streams our services each week, making our worship accessible to those in person and at home. It has been one of the best investments our parish has made in recent years.
One of the highlights of our fall was the return of an in-person Mistletoe Mart & Craft Faire. We welcomed Cocina Lupita as a vendor in our kitchen, along with other crafters; organized a raffle, cookie walk, and had an incredible day of fellowship. We raised over $7,000 for our mission and outreach.
Throughout the Year
We bid farewell to longtime parishioners and friends of the parish: Richard Gordon, Sheila Carpenter, Cathleen Esleeck, Jane Gadaire, and had a belated celebration of life for Tara and Jeri Bannister.
We saw shifts in leadership, as the following folks stepped down from their roles: Di Kurkulonis (Newsletter Editor and Stewardship Chair); Julie Carew (Youth Group Co-Leader); Kathryn Aubry-McAvoy (Faith Community Nurse); and Rev. Deacon Ann Wood (Pastoral Care).
Meanwhile, other leaders said yes to new roles: Erica Burns became the primary contact for Sunday Soup & Sandwiches; Elizabeth Keitel our Stewardship Chair for 2023; Princy Stotz our Legacy Giving Advisor; and Kathryn Aubry-McAvoy our Pastoral Care Chair.
Last, but certainly not least, we want to draw your attention to our feeding and outreach ministries. Each program has continued to do remarkable ministry week in and week out. There are far too many people to thank, but know that this parish’s commitment to serving God’s people is both humbling and a true joy to behold.
One of the big developments in our parish this year was the determination that we are called to pivot Sunday Soup and Sandwiches from a stop gap program in the pandemic to an ongoing ministry. This program has steadily grown since its inception, and there were several weeks where over 150 meals were served. In November, we appealed to the wider community to help us sustain this program.
We want to take a moment to offer a loud THANK YOU to all our lay leaders who so graciously and faithfully serve our mission and ministries.
Week after week, year after year, we, the members of Saints James and Andrew, ground ourselves in our community worship. We let the worship nurture, sustain, challenge, and inspire us to grow in faith. We then take our faith out into the world, serving our community through our feeding and outreach programs, our hospitality ministry and property use program, and our quickly expanding environmental justice ministry led by the Green Team.
James and Andrew, this has been yet another remarkable year. Let’s see where the Holy Spirit will continue to breathe new life into us. May we feel her presence and walk together with her into this new year.
Rev. Heather & Rev. Molly