Senior Pastor's Report
2017 annual report
Respectfully submitted by Pastor Danielle Miller
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
It has been 9 months since I began serving as your senior pastor, but even in my short time here I have discovered some hard and fast truths. It did not take me long to realize that God is alive and active at Advent Lutheran Church. I feel privileged to be a part of this ministry, a ministry steeped in so rich a history and looking in new and creative ways toward God's future for Advent. You have all made me, and my family, feel welcomed and in my short time here I have been able to experience a wide array of ministries and have learned a great deal from all of you.
During the summer, I met with over 50 parishioners, as well as our staff and several community members, for one-on-one meetings. With the arrival of our programmatic season in September, the level of one-on-ones has tapered off, but I do hope to continue these meetings and conversations. I’d like to reiterate that I value conversation and feedback. Please speak to me about your cares, concerns and celebrations. Ministry is about relationship. I value our relationship. Part of my spiritual practice is praying through the roster of our congregation. Know that you are being prayed for throughout the year.
This has been a year of transitions. I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate the ministry of Pastor Ann. Not only did she give of her whole self to this ministry while interim, she continues to give of her time and energy throughout the transition. We also saw a shift in office staff this year as Zachary Stevens-Walters left to continue his studies at Union and Carla Soraide began with us in August as Office Administrator. Carla’s position includes managing our Space Sharer relationships, which provide not only a steady stream of income, but also an incredible opportunity for networking and potential collaborative work. We have not filled the five hour a week Sunday School position Zachary held. That is currently being served by me and many volunteers. The goal is to shift those responsibilities, creating a steering team for Sunday School. Josh Weidmann also transitioned out of his position as building manager to pursue other career options. We give thanks for both Zachary and Josh. Currently the Building Manager responsibilities are split between our property team, Carla, our custodian, Laura Jara, and event coordinators. The position has not been immediately filled as we work creatively to determine and fill our needs.
This summer, we welcomed Nicole Gugulski on staff through an apprenticeship made possible by an ELCA Grant. We have also welcomed two field education students, Aaron Miner from United Seminary (Philadelphia Campus) and Sarah Klockowski from Union Seminary. Advent has a long tradition of providing opportunity for educational, vocational, and discipleship development, a commitment that we continue to grow.
This includes providing educational opportunities within our congregation through our Adult Education Hour, Sunday School, Confirmation, Bible Study, Communications Ministries, After School Ministry, ESOL Conversation Groups (begun in 2017), SSL Classes (Spanish as a second language- begun in 2017), and our Scholarship Fund. We also support and encourage participation in our synod diakonia program, a ministry designed for deepening adult discipleship. In 2018, look for continued educational opportunities like small group studies, leadership development/discipleship curriculum (currently being piloted with our council), podcasts, sermon discussions, book studies, faith and arts education and exploration, increasing development of our Children and Family’s ministry, and a continued commitment to existing educational ministries. I encourage you to participate in at least one educational opportunity this year.
The Advent Community has continued to live our faith through our Social/Outreach Ministries. With our Community Lunch, Food Pantry, Immigration Services, After-School Program, LaMP Campus Ministry Commitment, Communications Internship, Mission Fund Grants, and Advocacy work, we seek to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. In 2018, we hope to expand and strengthen our Social Outreach Ministries. We are in conversation with community partners about opportunities to connect to existing efforts. In the coming months, look for the development of an Advocacy Council, which will focus on connecting to community organizations, educational events, and planning advocacy actions. We will also be rolling out several anti-racism trainings and conversations over the coming years beginning with Troubling the Waters in January. Advent will begin composting this year and we look forward to creating a partnership with WeAct (West Harlem Environmental Action). Our Hunger and Immigration Ministry teams are constantly seeking ways to offer broader and deeper services, meeting the real needs of our community.
These ministries make an impact in our community, not only for those who are served but also for those who serve. By creating opportunities for people to volunteer and make connections, we create opportunities for relationship and meaning. That is no small thing. It takes a great deal of effort to coordinate the volunteers for our varied ministries, especially fostering and maintaining relationships with volunteer groups that come in from outside the Advent worshiping community. If you would like to help think creatively about how to better connect and manage our volunteers, please do not hesitate to speak with me. These many outreach ministries are also often grant funded. We are always looking for people interested in grant writing/exploration. And of course, we invite and encourage you to express your faith by serving a least once throughout the year at one of these ministries.
Worship and Faith Development is our primary purpose as a church. We are here to worship God. We come together as the church, “the people gathered”, to give thanks for God’s abundant love and to lean into God’s profound mercy.
There are many hands that go into planning and living into our worship services. Our preachers and presiders, the amazing musicians and Chorale, the multitude of worship leaders (Altar Guild, Readers, Ushers, Chalice Bearers, Special Musicians, Assisting Ministers, Flower Team), and the fullness of the people of God gathered to worship, weave together individual acts of faith, doubt and hope to create a diverse tapestry of the Body of Christ.
This is a legacy of faith that we live into and seek to pass along to our children. You will notice children are now more prevalent and involved in worship. The PRAYground area in the sanctuary has been further developed with the addition of faith-filled books, a felt board, tables and chairs, quiet toys and a reorientation toward the front of the sanctuary. Children now come forward every Sunday for a Young Disciple’s Message and participate periodically in a variety of ways such as: leading the recessional, coming forward for congregational song, receiving the offering, and even giving blessings to the assembly. Our current Sunday School model focuses on one story per month. This gives us the opportunity to approach it from different perspectives. One Sunday a month is dedicated to teaching church practices like prayer, offering and communion. Additionally, children learn church songs at the beginning of each service. On the 3rd Sunday of the month, during our intergenerational Sunday School, children are given the opportunity to learn with faithful adults who can serve as additional models of faith development.
We continue our sister relationship with Pueblo de Dios in El Salvador. This is an amazing partnership and it has been a delight to discover the depth of connection with this congregation. Our synod has blessed us with the opportunity to develop a relationship with a sister congregation, Nyabugera Parish, in Tanzania. This is another opportunity to deepen our understanding of worship and experience Christ at work.
There are many technical aspects that go into worship. Over the summer, a lot of time, effort and sweat equity went into fixing our sound system, making worship more accessible. A special thank you to Frank Martignetti, Kevin Bowen, Josh Weidmann and Zachary Stevens-Walters for going above and beyond to fix our beleaguered system.
Worship is essential to who we are. I encourage you to make the time to praise God on a regular basis.
I am grateful to God for all of you. A special thanks to the staff, the church Council, and all who served on the call committee. Thank you to our pastoral team, Pastor Gary and Pastor Jim, and our deacons, Carlos and Adolfo, for their tireless commitment to pastoral ministry at Advent. And for the countless Sunday School/After School/Confirmation/Adult Ed Teachers, Youth of Advent, Altar Guilders, Planning Committee, Latino Steering Committee, Readers, Ushers, Musicians and Chorale Singers, Greeters, Chalice Bearers, Assisting Ministers, Pray-ers, Scholarship Providers, Preachers, Hunger Ministry Volunteers, Poets and Artists, Property Committee purveyors, Advocates, El Salvador and Tanzania Relationship Builders, Community Partners, Retreat Takers, Counters, Stewardship Task Force Planners, Field Ed Students, LGBTQ Brunch folk, 20/30s, Tree Sellers, Carolers, Pie Bakers, Parents, LaMP-ers, Immigration Advocates, Mission Fund Granters, Personnel Servers, Coffee Hour Devotees, Financial Planners, Lutheran Counseling Center Participants, Generous Givers etc. etc.
The people of Advent are doing the work of God. It is a privilege to work with people eager to follow Jesus and interested in reaching out and welcoming newcomers into God's family. I look forward to the coming years of ministry together. Never doubt that you are doing the work of God, welcoming in the stranger and walking in the light of our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May God continue to bless you on your journey, now and always.