My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Well, here we are again. Another year has ended and it’s time to look back on where we’ve been, while also looking forward to what’s coming in the year ahead. As I was doing this in preparation for this report, I was reminded of the charge that had been laid upon me by the Bishop in my ordination to the Priesthood that: “As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach, to declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God’s blessing, to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood, and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 531).
To put this succinctly, my job among you as your Priest and Pastor is to proclaim God’s Word, the Law and the Gospel (the Good News of Jesus Christ), to you in Word and Sacrament, not only on Sunday mornings but also in all the places of life where you rebel against God and where you struggle, hurt, and labor. I can honestly say that, by God’s grace, I have striven to do just this throughout 2017 and, in so doing, I trust that the Holy Spirit has been at work among you transforming you “by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2) and conforming you to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). To that end, I’d like to highlight some of the ways that I sought to help you to grow in your knowledge and love Jesus Christ in 2017, apart from the preaching and administration of the Sacraments on Sunday morning.
Adult Education – Every Sunday morning at 9:45am, there’s an opportunity available for you to grow in your knowledge of the Scriptures through our Adult Education class. For the first part of 2017, we wrapped up a comprehensive study of the Gospel according to John. Following this, in the Fall, we began a study of the Old Testament lesson for each Sunday to not only help us to better understand the Old Testament itself, but also to learn how to read the Old Testament from a Christian perspective. This has been quite well-attended and there is always room for more. If you are not doing so already, please consider coming out on Sunday mornings to join us!
Rector’s Bible Study – On the second Wednesday of each month, following the Prayer and Praise service, at 7:30pm, I host a Bible Study at the church which focuses on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, which is one of the foundational books for understanding the entire message of the Scriptures. As this is a once-a-month study, we have been working our way rather slowly through the 16 chapters of the book, but I can honestly say that, despite the slowness of our progression, the conversations around the text have been quite fruitful and strengthening for those who attend.
Lenten Study Series – This past Lent, I led a teaching series on the historic liturgies of the Anglican Church in honor of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. We began with a two-part study of our current liturgy, examining the whys and hows of what we do each Sunday morning. This was followed by the celebration of the 1928, 1662, and 1552 Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion Services with some discussion about the differences and similarities of these services to our own present-day service. About 25-30 people attended each of these teachings and found them to quite helpful for better understanding why we worship in the liturgical tradition. Videos of these teachings are available if you missed them.
The Reformation and Why It Still Matters – In the Fall of 2017, I led a three-week study on the history of the Reformation. For two weeks, we focused on the catalyst to the Reformation and the theology of Martin Luther, and on the third week we examined the history of the Anglican Reformation and some of the distinctives of Anglicanism. This study was very well- attended, and I received a lot of positive feedback about it. Videos of these teaching are also available if you missed them.
Morning Prayer – In 2017, I began offering Morning Prayer each Tuesday and Thursday morning at 9am. This is a wonderful opportunity to begin your day with biblically-rich, corporate prayer. While it has been lightly attended on a whole, those of us who do meet find it to be a very enriching and faith-shaping experience. I would encourage more of you to consider joining us.
Before wrapping up my report, I’d like to say a few concluding words about 2017 and then a few words about 2018. (Please understand that there’s a whole lot more I could say, but then the report would end up being 50 pages – and no one wants that!) On a whole, I feel that 2017 was a very good year for Messiah. It was my third full year with you as your Rector and I feel that we have begun to establish a solid rhythm of walking our way through the liturgical year together. Our Sunday morning services are always joyful, hopeful, and encouraging, because they are always Christ-centered and not us-centered. As we enter 2018, I would encourage us all to remember that when we come here on Sunday morning it is at the gracious invitation and prompting of our Lord, to receive His promises in Word and Sacrament that we might be built up in faith, and then, and only then, to turn and give Him thanks and praise. We come because our good and gracious King wants us to know who we are, who He is, and what He has done for us because of who we are, so that we might trust Him more and more.
In addition to this, I’d like to say that I’m quite happy with where our parish life is on a whole. We have plenty of wonderful opportunities for fellowship and growth in faith that, if you aren’t already participating in, I would encourage you to consider.
Of course, this is not to say that everything in our parish life is perfect. We still have some struggles with finances, just as many churches do. That said, in 2018, I call on all of you to remember to be good stewards and keep up your pledges and, if you are not already doing so, to work toward tithing. Your faithful giving helps to keep us moving forward and provides us with opportunities to do new and exciting things in our community and abroad.
And here’s what’s in store for 2018 on my behalf. Starting in February, I’ll begin hosting a Catechism class for those 10 years old and older who wish to learn more about the Christian faith as it’s given expression in the Anglican tradition. For the five Sunday nights of Lent of this year, I’ll be doing a teaching series on the 39 Articles of Religion, which I believe is our confession of faith as Anglican Christians. In addition to that, for each of the Sundays of Lent, I will be preaching on the Ten Commandments (2 Commandments per Sunday) as a way of strengthening our understanding of how God calls us to live and think. Beyond this, I hope to (finally) get a few things off the ground that I have been thinking about for a while. First, I’d like to begin a type of “Theology of Tap” program at Harry’s Ale House, where those of us who are interested can meet and read through some Christian texts in a public space, and where others can be encouraged to join us. Second, I’m also seeking to begin a personal prayer ministry at Starbucks once a week. The idea is that I’ll sit at Starbucks and have my coffee and do my work with a “free prayer” card on the table for any customers who might like prayer. This would help me get to know folks in our community more and perhaps encourage some people to come and join us on Sunday mornings.
The very last thing that I’ll address with you all is my Doctoral degree, as I know some of you are interested in where things stand with this. In 2015, I began a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) program through St. Paul Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota and Sioux Falls Seminary in South Dakota. This is a three-year program, which means that I am wrapping up the bulk of my studies this coming semester. After the semester concludes in June, I’ll have two more classes to take in Sioux Falls itself and then I’ll need to write my doctoral dissertation, which will be a study of the Rite I and Rite II liturgies of our Book of Common Prayer, focusing on their use as Pastoral Care as reflected through Martin Luther’s understanding of the distinction of Law and Gospel. I very excited to begin working on this project, as it’s something I’ve been contemplating for quite some time.
Well, with all of this said, I wish God’s peace to all of you in 2018! I look forward to continuing to walk with you as we grow in our love and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ!
Your spiritual father in Christ, Kyle+