Rector’s Report to Vestry for the past year, 2023
(our Annual Vestry Meeting will be held this coming Sunday Feb. 4 at 12pm following our morning services.)
I take my inspiration in writing my report for this year’s annual vestry meeting from two quotes from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The first is “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Common to Paul’s other letters, Paul is writing in response to concerns or troubles in the communities he has a historical connection to, but is now only able to connect with them by letter and messenger. There was no quick communication, no post office, no email, no text message, and definitely no telephone or video conferencing. His message back therefore was a precious communication, carefully and prayerfully constructed to respond with as much care, instruction, and guidance as could be contained in its hand written form.
In our time, I have plenty of opportunities to communicate with you but because this report is shared with you only once a year and it has a yearly summary like function. That said, my report to vestry feels to me like a precious communication that requires the same careful and prayerful construction and to be rooted in encouraging our community to uphold the foundational qualities and goals of our shared Christian faith. Like the people of Galatia, it is important to see and uphold in our own community the “fruit of the Spirit” in the same Godly qualities I quoted Paul writing about in chapter 5, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Reflecting on the year 2023 in our community here at St. Mark’s, I can gratefully see how all those Christian qualities were reflected in our ministry together. Having arrived as your parish priest as we as a nation and city were exiting from the worst of the pandemic in 2022, we as a church community still faced much uncertainty and turmoil as we worked to return to our patterns of our communal worship and community based ministries and activities. 2023 was yet another big step in the right direction, even if it was still not without its struggles and challenges.
Love, Joy, and Peace, from Paul’s wonderful listing of “fruit of the Spirit” grew in 2023 at St. Mark’s as we were able to return to a year without major interruption of gathering together with each other to worship together regularly and also to gather together to be community together and to do good work together. The tensions created by the pandemic restrictions and separation began to mend and our regular worship pattern reminded us of our love for each other and gave us important reminders of the joy and peace that our faith brings to our lives together (Thank you to Ryan, our music director, and our choir, thank you to our many groups and teams that support our worship, Altar Guild, Servers, Readers, Intercessors, Communion Assistants, Greeters, Waypoint Kids leaders, Tech Team, Coffee Hour hosts). Inspiring music and joining our voices in song and prayer every Sunday, we felt once again with joy the powerful bonds that connect us harmoniously. Yes, we are fewer in numbers as a congregation than before the pandemic began and still grieve those losses, but we also celebrated new beginnings and embraced with joy those relationships we renewed.
Kindness, Generosity, and Faithfulness from Paul’s list also grew in 2023. The simple truth that was reinforced by our return was that together we can do more. Our dedicated volunteer teams have expanded our food collection and continued supporting meal programs for those in need in our community (Thank you to the Food Drive volunteers, the Apostles, Daily Bread and Blessing Centre volunteer teams). Our kind volunteers have been better able to visit the sick and shut-in and provide in-person pastoral care more readily and safely for all (Thank you to our Pastoral Visitors team). And our congregation has responded generously to help us take great steps to reduce our deficit and continue to do our best to ensure our ministry has the best support staff (Thank you to the guidance and work of our Finance Committee, the Fundraising Committee, and the Christian Generosity Team). We also enjoyed new expressions of the “fruit of the Spirit” in 2023 with the formation of the Good Grief Group for widows and widowers and under the guidance of our parish nurse, Deb Belowitz, and with a grant from the Government of Canada’s Community Services Recovery Fund targeted programs and support to older adults in our parish and wider community to be healthier in body, mind, and spirit.
And lastly, the traits of Patience, Gentleness, and Self-control also grew at St. Mark’s in given witness to by the good work and care communicated in its pages. I know we still have challenges ahead of us, but the goal of proclaiming the Gospel and being the best example of a Christian community striving to live out the Good News of Jesus Christ, will strengthen us for that challenge.
I close with these words of encouragement, that Paul in his letter wrote to the good people of Galatia: “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)
– The Rev’d Canon Rob Park