Dear friends,

I am writing at the beginning of Thanksgiving week and feel the need to spend some time reflecting on some of the reasons I give thanks for our church this year. We have obviously faced some struggles and difficulties this year, and there are challenges we face as a church moving forward. Still, even as we pray for our church and seek God’s guidance, let us also recognize the good things God is doing in our midst.

During worship this past Sunday, I invited people to voice prayers of thanksgiving aloud at the beginning of the Pastoral Prayer. I sensed the presence of God as different people expressed gratitude to God for a variety of blessings. In particular, my emotions rose to the surface as I heard some of our youth and children speak their gratitude by thanking God for the church and for other blessings. One of our members told me later in the day that he really wanted to begin singing the song, “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying,” and I honestly wish we would have done so. It strikes me as a wonderful gift to be part of a church where our children and youth feel like they are full participants in worship. Children are not simply “the future of the church.” They are a vital part of our church family, and we can learn from them as they learn from us. May we seek to be a congregation where every voice matters and each member of the family feels encouraged to share gifts and talents in worship and ministry.

We have been truly blessed by the way God has brought Luke Perrin and Jeff Whicker to join us in ministry. It’s tempting to say that they both just landed in our laps, but I know God is the One who made it possible. I have mentioned before that Luke is doing a terrific job as our intern, and I have enjoyed seeing the ways he connects to our youth and encourages them in their faith. We have been having 9 to 11 youth each Sunday evening, and it has been a treat to see them each participating and contributing to the group dynamics as this very young youth group develops its identity and connection. I am also grateful to the Modern Disciples Class and the Deacons. Each group has provided a snack supper for our youth recently.

While we have been blessed for a long time by Mary Summerlin’s worship leadership at the piano, Jeff has stepped in capably so that we haven’t missed a beat. His talent and heart for worship have been evident as he has shared his gifts with us. I am also enjoying the chance to get to know him and hope you will make him feel welcome and get to know him as well.

I am also thankful for the opportunity to worship together with you during the upcoming Advent season. Please take note of the Advent calendar in this newsletter and join us for the Sunday morning services and the special evening services as we prepare to welcome and celebrate the Gift of the Christ Child.