by David Romanik
A few days before Thanksgiving, the Director of Communications and I were sitting in the Nave, waiting to record readers for our service of Advent Lessons and Carols. Noting that, like many other things, this was a new experience in 2020, Blaine mentioned that he had been reflecting on how much we had accomplished as a community over the course of the year. Though I was initially skeptical of this observation, I was surprised by how many projects and new initiatives we were able to list:
We launched a new website that is both more inviting to newcomers and more reflective of our identity as a parish.
We began offering a weekly livestream of our 10:30 service on Sunday mornings, sharing edifying video content on a regular basis, and recording concerts and special services.
We restored our beautiful stained-glass windows, ensuring that members of this parish will be able to enjoy them for generations to come.
We completed needed improvements to the Terrace and the Courtyard, mitigating the risk of water penetration in the church offices.
We hired two dynamic new staff people, Jesse Ratcliffe and the Reverend Corrie Cabes, who have brought creativity and vision to their work in this community.
With the help of several dedicated parishioners, we have begun to nurture a burgeoning college ministry that has drawn young adults into the life of this church community.
We established a new outreach ministry that has distributed thousands of pounds of food to hundreds of needy people in the Abilene community.
We have discovered the beauty and versatility of our Courtyard, which has become a center of worship, fellowship, and pastoral care.
We have developed new ways of reaching out to members of this parish community, employing new technologies to nurture our connection to God and one another.
The list could go on. Despite (and in some cases, because of) the challenges of the pandemic, the Church of the Heavenly Rest accomplished a great deal in 2020. With God’s help, we were able to transform unprecedented challenges into unparalleled opportunities. As we begin a new year, our community is stronger and more flexible than ever before. We have been able to accomplish these things thanks to the leadership of our Vestry, the creativity of our staff, the faithfulness and flexibility of our parishioners.
Given what we were able to accomplish in a year of dislocation and uncertainty, it is exciting to imagine what we will be able to do when our circumstances are more predictable. As I have put it to several members of our parish: imagine what we can do when we don’t have one hand (or, in some cases, both hands) tied behind our back! As a vaccine becomes widely available, Heavenly Rest is positioned to do more than we ever thought possible. In this issue of the Lay Reader, you will read about many of the projects and initiatives that our community will be taking on in the coming months. To name just a few:
Under the leadership of Jesse Ratcliffe and the Organ Committee, we are taking concrete steps to rebuild the church’s organ, which has been silent since 2018.
Corrie Cabes has been designing and will begin to implement a dynamic program of youth formation, including a Confirmation class for those young people who are ready to make a mature commitment to their faith.
Blaine Beyer and the Communications Committee are facilitating a comprehensive rebranding project, which will ensure we have a cohesive strategy for sharing the work we do with the wider community.
With the help of several dedicated volunteers, we are investing in permanent streaming equipment, to make sure we can share our worship in the online space, even after we are able to gather together.
Amanda Watson and several intrepid parishioners are carrying the “Circle of Support” into the new year, in order to make sure that the young people of our community have all the educational resources available to them.
In addition to these projects, our Vestry continues providing diligent and faithful leadership, while our staff works on a daily basis to ensure that this parish continues to be the welcoming place we all know it to be.
I pray that there is a day in the near future when we can once again gather for worship or for a Wednesday night supper without fear of negatively impacting the health of the people around us. Until then, know that, even in spite of the limitations we currently face, 2021 promises to be a year full of hope and possibility at the Church of the Heavenly Rest.