Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face; here would I touch and handle things unseen; here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace, and all my weariness upon thee lean.
Horatius Bonar, hymn 318 in the Hymnal 1982
Reflecting on the past year brings this hymn to my heart. For starters, you and I have collected more than enough weariness to lean upon God. So much to grieve. So much loss. So much to carry. So much endless flexibility, adjusted plans, difficulty, and surrendered control: individually, in our nuclear and extended families, our friendships and social circles, and together as the Body of Christ in this place. I am grateful for the hymnist’s giving us permission to admit to our weariness in God’s presence.
Yet, just as surely, I find myself wanting to say that this season has also been one of grasping “with firmer hand eternal grace.” This year has witnessed so much generosity, creativity, and compassion. This year has asked us to open our hearts to love without condition, given and received, through the vulnerability it has asked of us. This year has made the work of pretending difficult and so has asked us to trust God to meet us in our need for God and one another. Time and again, God has met us in the space of that living trust. When I reflect on this past year, my heart both grieves and is full of gratitude.
I am so grateful for and proud of the resilience I have seen in our church. Very little of the last ten months is what we would have chosen. And yet. The showing up with God’s help to each new day in trust and hope and determination and expectation has been both inspiring and a witness to the God we gather to praise. I have seen this living witness across the gamut of our common life, in my share in the weekly youth activities, and in each of Holy Trinity’s active ministries. I’ll be focusing the remainder of this report, however, on the three main area’s of the Associate’s responsibilities: a) coordination of worship, b) adult Christian education, and c) staff meetings and development.
Worship coordination is a work of daily appreciation. So many folks, in ordinary years, offer their lives and labor to make our common worship possible, but that much more so in a season of pandemic. We have worshiped in no less than five separate formats this year, with more painstaking considerations for each one than I have paper to detail. I am so grateful for Fr. Keith’s decision making and overall direction and guidance, always with the well-being of our parish family and visitors to our community in mind. Amanda McCoy has been a miracle (and tireless) worker as the director of recordings and in making all services accessible and available online. Marilyn Ford has been a glue at every stage and especially in preparing for the reintroduction of in-person worship. And I don’t have words adequate for our many musicians, led by Lauren Murphy-Hale and Dennis Kinzler, with Al Clark playing a tremendous and largely invisible support role with sound editing, who have been amazingly creative, flexible, and faithful as they help our parish family continue to make a joyful noise to God.
Additionally, the Altar Guild, directed by Kathy Roemisch, has ably assisted the clergy through countless changes and adjustments, with characteristic generosity and grace. Greg Fox gave so much time installing the new camera equipment that helped make the weekly livestreams possible. Grace Johnson and the acolytes. Zoe Holmes with the readers. Terry Tunks and Matt McCoy with the ushers. Patsy Pratt and Marilyn with the greeters. Sally Meek with the Vestry. And all of you who have continued to serve in these respective ministries. Ken Bailey built HTbtL an outdoor altar! Malinda Miller and Sharon Fullington shepherded our children and a lot of joy at our outdoor Christmas pageant. Lauren Murphy-Hale and Marla Quimby kept us singing at the manger beneath the star. Thank you. Bless you. And God love you. We truly are the church together.
Adult Christian Education
I’ll include at the end of this report a summary of the Christian education offerings this past year, which serves as a kind of time capsule looking back, especially after March, but here I’ll simply name my appreciation for the adaptability of each one of you. Few of us knew much about Zoom at the start of this year. Now several of you are setting up and hosting your own meetings. Many of you are joining the weekly and monthly offerings of the church. Our formats are different, but we have navigated the changes in ways that allow us to keep the focus the same: growing together into the likeness and full stature of Christ.
One of the things you’ll notice that the role of technology allowed us to do is involve speakers and guests from a wider range of places and contexts. This is something we hope to continue, even after the necessity of distanced programming subsides. This year’s topics sought to be pastoral, encouraging, responsive to current events, and conferring of dignity to the ministry of each person. Your life and vocation matter to God! My prayer is that these opportunities have strengthened each one’s sense of imagination, empowerment, and belonging for the good work God has given us.
I want to especially name here the prayer group ministry that formed in response to the desire to grow in relationship and connection, even at a social distance. Zoe Holmes worked with Amanda McCoy to steer the ship out of harbor, with respect to logistics. Others of you signed up to lead. Still others of you signed up to pray. A beautiful embodiment of Holy Trinity’s commitment to seek the flourishing of our faith community at a difficult time.
Holy Trinity by the Lake is blessed with a remarkable staff. It is both humbling and a tremendous pleasure to seek out prompts and questions to open and guide our weekly reflection time and frame our meetings together. It’s an honor (and a lot of fun) to work with each of them. I admire and learn from them. And I thank God that life and this work can mean our personal and professional friendships. Please join me in naming appreciation for them as often as you think to.
Finally, I thank God for the gift it is to walk the life of faith with you as your associate priest in this place. I am glad for the opportunity to serve alongside my colleague and friend, Fr. Keith, and to grow in holy friendship with each of you in community. On a personal note, many of you know that this year’s weariness for me included the death of my grandfather to COVID-19. I have been deeply touched by and grateful for your many expressions of love and support, for me and my family, as we remember, name our thanks, and grieve. I’m glad for the opportunity to share our joys and sorrows, one with another, along this pilgrim way, and I’m grateful for your heart for Jesus and the new kingdom to which he’s called us. Thank God that he’s so called us.
May God continue to grow our grasp of God’s eternal grace at Holy Trinity by the Lake, in ways that grow our affections for each other, bless and serve those beyond these walls, and ever and always give glory to God.
Every blessing, and God’s good peace.
Christian Education Summaries
Lenten Series: Lent, Life, and Following Jesus.
Taking our lead from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2020 Lent Book, we engaged a series exploring creation care, looking especially at the work of ministries like Bonton and Plainsong farms, the scriptures, and next steps available to individuals and the church. This series was moved to an online setting midway, owing to the pandemic.
Special Programs in Response to the Pandemic
April 8: Pray and Stay Awake. A conversation on prayer and the altar of repose with the Rev. M. Randall Melton.
April 15: Formed in Time and Space: Reflecting on Christian Gathering, Worship, and the Spaces We Inhabit. A conversation with the Rev. Dr. Daniel Cochran about how our spaces shape us as God’s people and the ongoing nature of conversion and formation.
April 25: At Home with Holy Chaos. Kate Byrd helped me collect stories from across the country – including those of some of our members! – about how life was going and how people of faith were finding ways to navigate their still new pandemic circumstances.
April 30: Mental Health, Musicians, and the Rest of Us. A conversation about mental health, first in music, then applied to pandemic circumstances with organist and licensed therapist Lauren Murphy-Hale.
May: Prayer Group Training for Leaders. It was such a gift to offer the orientation to these leaders, whose ministry provided life-giving connection to our parish family in an extremely difficult time. Some of you reported feeling closer to members of your parish family than before the pandemic. Prayer group leaders stepped into an unknown role at an important time, and I am so very grateful for them.
June 17: Solidarity and Support in N. Minneapolis: Following George Floyd’s death and subsequent community responses across the country, a conversation with Steve Mullaney, campus minister at the University of Minnesota, about solidarity understood through the lens of baptism, mutual aid, changing models for emergency assistance, and the needs of local neighborhoods there.
September: Labor of Love, a behind the scenes and in-depth series of conversations with ministry leaders from a full range of the church’s life, sharing stories of joy and encounter with Jesus. A complementary piece to Fr. Keith’s Love Thy Neighbor series in August.
September: Stop-Motion and the Scripture. A youth-oriented online series in which we explored the stop-motion process and discussed the process involved in identifying the main elements of a story and telling it through stop-motion.
November 15: Intergenerational Online Talent Show. A warmly supported opportunity to gather as much talent, across all ages, as we could muster on Zoom.
Theology on Tap
Gathering the first Wednesday of each month at 7pm (currently online):
o February: Poetry Night! (Y’all were amazing.)
o March: Lent, Life, and Following Jesus (overlap with Lenten series)
o April: Lent, Life, and Following Jesus (overlap with Lenten series)
o May: Pain, Praise, & Pandemics
o June: Racism and Listening to Voices of the Black Community
o July: Covid, Connection, and the Enneagram (a summer pop-up series with Lauren Murphy-Hale)
o September: Human Dignity, Humility, and Joy
o October: Learning to be with One Another: Imitating the Life of Heaven (Sam Wells)
o November: Refusing to be Enemies (Daoud Nassar)
o December: Do not be Afraid (Nadia Bolz Weber)
o January: Epiphany: Prayers in Pajamas!
Sunday School (These were mostly 3 week series gathering at 9:30am on Sundays)
o Feb: The Way of Love (following Presiding Bishop Michael Curry)
o Mar/Apr: 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversation
o Sept: Living Faith: Faith’s Expression in Our Every Day Lives
o Oct: Sing a New Song
o Nov: The Book of Common Prayer (Confirmation and Inquirers’ Class)
o Dec/Advent: Be Not Afraid: In Conjunction with Illustrated Ministry
o Jan: Crafts and New Creation: Exploring a Theology of Making
12-15 folks from HTbtL, on average, joined the Rev. Kate Byrd and me for this monthly gathering oriented at discerning God in (the sometimes messy) rhythms of ordinary life. Having gathered at 12N on 3rd Wednesdays in 2020, this gathering looks to take on a different format in 2021, with details TBA.