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February 8, 2016, 10:13 AM

From the Rector

Annual Meeting 2016

Our goals and desires:

The three main goals the Vestry wants to accomplish in 2016 are: Grow the congregation, stabilize the finances, and increase our youth program.

Our call:

We the church—the people of God are called to deal with the spiritual needs of our communities, not just the needs of our congregation. That is the alarm the Bishop has been sounding since his arrival in Central Florida. The church must reflect the community: we must be able to get into the communities, see what the needs are, and make sensible responses to address those needs.

Our Responses to our purpose:

For us here at St. Mark’s, we have a base from which to begin. God has blessed us with being the only church in the inner city of Haines City. What we do here is more important than what we say. Our actions in the city will speak now, and long after we are gone. When we use the word diversity in our lexicon we are normally inferring a different culture or people, but here at St. Marks we are on the cutting edge of a new thriving entrepreneurial enfranchisement. We are allowing our unused buildings and space to be utilized by denominations other than the Episcopal Church. With three different religious congregations and two social organizations meeting on our property each week, we are convinced more than ever that the church is God’s idea and not ours—it is how the Name of Jesus is lifted up that is important.

Meeting the needs of a diverse community:

Several years ago, Haines City was focused on the citrus industry and the church was the worship environment for a few fruit growers. With the urbanization of the area, the spiritual, economic, and cultural needs of this city have changed. As a spiritual community following the call of Christ, we have responded with a thriving Thrift Store which helps to address the needs of this community with slightly used, and in some cases, new items of clothing and household goods at little or no cost: no one is turned away. The store not only provides needed items for the shoppers, but it is a safe place for people to browse and make new friends.

The congregation helps to feed the hungry.

Twice monthly, the food pantry makes sure that several families can feed their children with the help of the church. From 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. we open our pantry, and families from the city and surrounding area are welcome to come and receive a bag of food. This is a follow-on to how we began six years ago when we actually took food to the homes of the poor. Both of these ministries are supported by you, but we need more support in two major ways: 1) Telling people about the thrift store; and 2) continuing to donate food items and inviting people to come for groceries thus ensuring that they too can eat from God’s bounty, albeit within our limitations. We welcome contributions from all sources. The more food we collect the more we can distribute. I applaud Vestry members who have made the decision to allow the monetary offering collected at the mid-week service to go directly to purchase food for the food pantry. There is a noticeable increase in the offering on Wednesday. That tells me that someone is hearing, someone is responding: someone believes that this is just not a place to come to worship God in song and praise and make ourselves happy, but it is a place to look into our hearts and see how we can bless God with our gifts to others. You are simply the best.

Community Involvement:

St. Mark’s is a member of the Heart of Florida Christian Community—a group of ministers who meet to pray and look for ways to help our community. One of the resources from this coalition is House Bless--an outreach community service to those in need. In house, we have come full circle with our steel-band and have a brand new tutor who has pulled together a group who will move us from practicing in the basement to playing at the waterfront. The tutor ensured us that after two practice sessions, you will be able to play a tune. This is another way of telling our community that St. Mark’s Church is more than a beautiful white building but a home for a diverse group of people who have come to the city to worship and to serve. Last fall, we used the postal service ‘Every Door Direct’ program and mailed out 5,000 flyers inviting people to come to our sanctuary each week for worship. We told those households that we have a growing youth program, a thrift store for good items, and a food pantry that is feeding hundreds. We make sure they know we are not hidden in the city, but we are moving out to the citizenry who may be hiding from the Good News of Jesus Christ.  I'm encouraged that all of the above is happening. I also feel that we need to do more to get people in these doors. In addition to every door direct, we have developed 2,500 door knockers and with your help we believe this will be another door opener to the church and the worship of God.

Making the Old New in Church and in Community Development:

Thirdly, we have developed another brochure called “Fresh Expressions in Worship”. I am sure you've seen the big poster in the Narthex; we have been handing out that flyer to individual homes. We don’t often see the householders but we know that many of them are new to the area because we are dropping these pieces of information off at new homes.  We believe that all of this will get the word out and help us to accomplish the three main things we set out to accomplish in 2016: Grow the congregation, stabilize the finances, and increase our youth program. We extended our grace to a young bright cleric who has brought a fresh voice to the sanctuary. Pastor Becky reached out to us and we reached back to her and she is now a part of our worship and sacerdotal team. Our finances does not permit the proper compensation as prescribed by the Diocese, but my prayer is that God will make that possible very soon before we lose her. As an assisting priest, Pastor Becky has taken on the role of a youth pastor and works closely with youth leader Ms. Sophia Green.

Congregational Development:

In addition to the mailings and our outreach with the food pantry and the thrift store, we need an organized men's group, possibly under the brotherhood of St. Andrew. We need to reenergize the Episcopal Church Women, and look for new ideas to engage the communities that surround us, as we focus on the three main things that the Vestry thinks we should focus on; increase church attendance, stabilize the finances, and grow the youth.  I believe there is no better time than now to commit those thoughts and ideas to our Lord in Prayer, and we will see what God will do with our desire for 2016.

You must commit; you have to be here.

You have to know who you are, and where you are. If you don't know those two, everyone who comes to you with negative talk will be like the wind that blows you from side to side, until it finally blows you away. When you speak about your congregation you must be able to identify yourself as one of the members. You cannot be looking at us and them; it is us.  So the next time you feel like asking what happened to someone whom you don’t see anymore, your time would be more useful if you investigate the truth and try your best to rally them to be with you or encourage them to stay where God has placed them. The one option we don’t have is to stop praying for that person. That is the call of the Christian. May God bless our year:

Thank you



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