This is the rector’s address given to the annual meeting of Church of the Redeemer in Kenmore, Washington, on January 22, 2017.
The Rector’s Address
This past year has been a bit of a roller coaster, although perhaps that depends on whether or not you appreciate roller coasters. We have much to be joyful about. There are signs of life everywhere, and we also came face to face with some of the challenges that confront us.
More than 4700 encounters with God
I want to start with this number: In 2016, the Church of the Redeemer was the site of more than 4,700 encounters with God.
More than 4,100 people came through the doors on Sunday morning to hear the Good News of the Love of God made known in Christ Jesus. We had more than 40 families and individuals visit the church of the first time. We celebrated 108 Sunday Eucharist services, 36 weekday Eucharist services, 18 services of Morning and Evening Prayer, and 3 funerals.
Redeemer lived out our Baptismal covenant by reaching out to the community in many ways this year. We gave to people in need backpacks, linens, kitchen supplies, turkey dinners, Christmas presents, and a belief that they are worthy of love and belonging to God. We hosted AA, CA, senior fitness and senior yoga from the Northshore Senior Center, a low-income community supported agriculture-type program in conjunction with the 21 Acres Harvest Share program, and a conversation on being Muslim in America in conjunction with the Islamic Center of Bothell. We committed to working with the Mission to Seafarers, the Foundation for Academic Endeavors, and to continue our work of washing feet.
Through much hard work, the Vestry began a process of implementing a strategic plan with a goal to help Church of the Redeemer remain true to its mission, build its membership, and achieve financial stability. They laid the groundwork for many things that we’ve talked about already, and there will be more to come in the year ahead.
We asked for and received approval for a grant to reimagine our education program for children, and have started that process.
Truthfully I’m sure I’ve forgot several things that happened this year. Church of the Redeemer is a place where the Spirit is alive and active.
Challenges we face
Our challenges are similarly wide ranging. There are of course, the social and political events, locally and nationally, integrating all that cut at odds with everything the Baptismal covenant and the Gospel of God’s love stand for.
But there are other challenges as well. Our congregation continues to age. The majority of members are 60 or older, retired, or looking to retire. Where 7-10 years ago there were nearly 100 families attending Redeemer, there are closer to 60 today. This puts a strain, not only on our budget, but also the fabric of Redeemer. We remember who and what we were and not who we are now.
I called these challenges though, because I believe that they things we can overcome and are, in fact, opportunities. If we can be honest about who we are, we have this beautiful outer unity to engage in what God is calling us to do.
Panoply of possibility
Church of the Redeemer is a panoply of possibility. Our identity the one deeply rooted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and our participation in that salvation through our baptism and the covenant that we entered into when we went through water from death to life. That has so much power. The list of missions that this parish could accomplish is almost limitless.
For example, at our Vestry retreat a year ago, everyone was brainstorming ideas that might create a poetic icing in our common life as a parish. We’d write them on cards and stick them up on the wall. One card that got hung up on the wall said “Take a chainsaw to the pews.” When we got to this card in our group review of all the ideas, everyone laughed at first. But, as the idea began to percolate, the vision of a worship space that was flexible, that could change not only with the seasons, but with the needs of the congregation and the community, people began to agree, “Yea, let’s chainsaw the pews.” Fast forward nearly 12 months, and we have not yet taken said chainsaw to the pews…yet, but do have on order a whole new series of flexible pews that will, along with new carpet and new floors, allow us to fulfill the vision of that was contained in an index card about chainsaws and pews.
I believe that Church of the Redeemer is called to be an in-breaking of the kingdom of God on the North Shore, a testament to the marvelous power, and presence of God here, in this place. How could I not? Go back to that list of the very incomplete list of things that Redeemer did in 2016. I am confident that such love and compassion will continue to flow from this parish in the coming year…and more. I believe that we can do more.
An audacious stretch goal
I have a challenge to offer for each member of Redeemer: that one year from now we have integrated 20 new families and individuals into the Body of Christ in this parish.
It’s an audacious goal. In order to accomplish it, we need to invite 160 individuals and families, 160 households, to walk though the doors of the church. That may sound like a lot of people, and it is. So think of it in this context: just in the nascent downtown core of Kenmore, a few blocks from our door, 222 units of housing have opened in the past 18 months. Within two years it will be more than 500 units, just blocks from the church. And the same thing is happening in Bothell, and in Lynnwood, and in Woodinville. What if we invited just one fifth of all of these individuals and families to Redeemer? What if we invited all of them?
To invite, and then welcome and integrate 20 families and individuals in the next year, we must not only have 160 of them walk through the front door at least once, we must be ready to welcome them. Physically ready with the renewal of our worships space, but also with programs, and by far, most importantly, our selves to make them feel that they can be a part of this community because this is a place where they can meet God in meaningful ways and be formed to come citizens of God’s Kingdom, children of God, and disciples of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is essential not only that visitors believe that, but that they experience it as well.
In truth, I have no idea how or if it will get accomplished. It is what one author calls a stretch goal. If you know how to do it, then its not a stretch. But I am firmly convinced that it is possible, worthy and worth our time and effort. I believe that this is our central work. It is what Jesus calls his disciples to do, what he promised that the Holy Spirit would help us with, what we promise to do in our baptismal covenant. It is one of the main foci of our strategic plan, the point of our grant, and the fuel of our outreach. All of it is tied up in bringing 20 households into this fold, to integrate 20 families and individual into the body of Christ in Church of the Redeemer. It will take all of that work and dedication that we already shown, and then some, to achieve. And, I look forward to sharing that work with you.
May almighty God, who has called us to new life in Jesus Christ our Lord, give us courage, patience, and vision; and strengthen us in our Christian vocation of witness to the world, and or service to other, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Jed Fox, Rector
The Rev. Jedediah (Jed) Fox was born and raised in Helena, Montana. He grew up attending St. Peter’s Cathedral in Helena. It was there, during college, that he discerned a call to the priesthood.
After graduating from Carroll College in Helena, Jed and his wife, Mary Beth Jäger, moved to New York City so that Jed could attend the General Theological Seminary. Since his graduation from seminary in 2009 through the end of 2014, Fr. Jed had been the curate and assistant to the rector of the Church of St. Michael and St. George in St. Louis, Missouri. He became rector of Church of the Redeemer on January 1, 2015.
You may contact Fr. Jed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Church of the Redeemer
Church of the Redeemer is at 6210 Northeast 181st Street in Kenmore, Washington. We are a short distance north of Bothell Way, near the Burke-Gilman Trail. The entrance looks like a gravel driveway. The campus is larger on the inside than it is on the outside.
The Episcopal Church welcomes you.