Monday, January 18, 2016

On November 1, 2015, I celebrated my 10 year anniversary as Rector of St. David’s.  Thank you to our vestry and hospitality committee for the celebration they planned and hosted.  The Capital Campaign Committee shared their wrap-up celebration and we all enjoyed a nice brunch after church that day.  It has been a very fruitful 10 years both for me and, I believe, for our church.  We have each grown in many ways…and I thank God for the opportunity and privilege of being your rector.  We continue to have fun together and challenge each other—so I look forward to more years together in ministry and service to Christ. This year I was honored to attend the 2015 General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah as an alternate deputy from our diocese.  What an amazing opportunity.
We have just completed 6 years of Capital Campaign contributions.  Wow! I thank all of you for your faithfulness and commitment to St. David’s.  Without our new wing, our ministries would not have blossomed and thrived over the past 4 years in quite the same way.  That being said, we are carrying a whopping $57,000 per year mortgage payment.  I am so pleased to say that in 2015 we were able to make our mortgage payments out of operating budget funds with no need for Capital Campaign/Building Fund monies.  It is my hope that that will continue to be the case.  I urge you all to make use of the “Mortgage Reduction” envelopes in your giving envelope boxes, as this money will go directly to mortgage principal pay-off.  Each dollar given today will shorten the duration of our mortgage payments and help secure the financial future of our church.  I truly believe it to be imperative that we invest in the future of St. David’s by being good stewards of the present.  I hope you will agree and continue to make donations to the Building Fund as you are able.  Thank you to Amy Mansue, Charles Fischer and David Levy for their chairing of our two “Building on our Vision forTomorrow” Campaigns.

This year’s big new initiative has been The St. Paul Project, which our church has participated in through the Diocese of New Jersey’s Congregational Development Committee.  In a partnership with Vibrant Faith Ministries, this program has been developed to support our church members in their Christian Formation and also to extend that formation out into the community.  Our St. Paul Team is made up of Carol Rodgers, Christopher Achen, Abbi Clissold, Catherine Katona, Ed Miller, David Miller, Angela Levy, Deacon Hank and your rector.  We have an energetic, dedicated group working on our first project, which will be Lent 2016.  The committee has attended four different workshop programs led by John Roberto of Vibrant Faith and has had monthly conference calls with our consultant from that organization, Dawn Schwartz.  It has been a growing experience for each of us as we extend our programming into the “cyber world” and work to strengthen our Christian formation opportunities.  I appreciate each of these folks and their dedication to this project.  Come on out to the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper on February 9 to see what #stdavidsrocks is all about! 

This year, we invited Canon Connie White to share her “Enriching our Prayer Life” retreat with us.  After a snow-out in February (how many times did that happen last winter??!!), we rescheduled and held the retreat in November.  Our labyrinth was open for the afternoon and many folks took advantage of the opportunity to experience this form of prayer and walking meditation.  We will be scheduling quarterly labyrinth walks throughout 2016.  We also welcomed 21 new members to our church, began offering Bereavement Groups this year (thanks to Clara Douglas and Brother John Baptist), held a Recovery Sunday worship service, revived Father G. Graham’s Passion Play, donated $7500 to ERD’s 75th Anniversary campaign and strengthened our outreach initiatives in the communities we serve. 
This January we will say goodbye to Janet Boyle and Steven Dodson who are retiring from vestry.  Janet has been a wonderful two-term vestry member, as liaison to outreach and liturgy, chair of our nominating committee, and helping out with Cranbury Day.  Janet’s commitment to St. David’s is appreciated and she has been a great voice on vestry.  Steven Dodson has served one term on vestry as Finance chair, as well as liaison to our Welcome Committee.  Steven has brought a new perspective to the vestry table, always reasoned and insightful.  He has led the Finance Committee through the past three years of the strengthening of our finances.  Both of these individuals will be missed.  Thank you to Deanna Emerson, who, having completed one year of an unexpired term, will return for a full three-year term.  Deanna has been a wonderful and creative fundraising chairperson.  Thankfully, Carol Rodgers has agreed to a second term as Senior Warden—Carol has been an excellent warden and I have relied on her wisdom and guidance throughout the past two years.  Carol is truly a mature Christian servant and she and Patricia Kraft, our Junior Warden, have been great partners in ministry. 

Thanks always go out to our staff; Parish Administrator, Judy Henningsen, who handles the day to day comings and goings of all those who use our building—and that is no small feat! Judy is so organized and responsible that there is rarely a last-minute rush or uproar in the office, a situation which I greatly appreciate.  Our Minister of Music, Dr. Brian Katona, has a great sense of providing music which enhances our worship and spiritual experience without overpowering them.  He has brought our volunteer choir to great heights and they contribute so much to our church. Thank you!  Tim Doutt has brought a level of professionalism and commitment to our finances and building maintenance that is hard to find in a part-time employee.  As treasurer, Tim keeps our bills paid and books up to date.  As sexton, Tim keeps our building in good shape and supports the ministries of our church.  I am indebted to him for this work.  This parish has the good fortune to have a deacon, Hank Bristol.  Hank is an important part of our ministry here, working with outreach, leading classes and participating in Sunday worship; I am always grateful for his presence and am pleased to have him as a partner in ministry.  Brother John Baptist is also an important part of who we are, extending our pastoral care reach into the community through his work inside and outside of our congregation.  The Rev. Dr. Jacob David continues as our Priest Associate.  Father Jacob is an insightful teacher and preacher, and I am grateful for his ministry at St. David’s and also for his friendship and support.  We have a great group of committed folks here at St. David’s—please thank them when you see them!

In 2015, I had the privilege of baptizing 7 children, of presenting 7 individuals for confirmation/reception/reaffirmation to Bishop George Councell,  and of officiating at two marriages of young people who had grown up at St. David’s.  I am always gratified when sons and daughters of this parish return for these sacred occasions in their lives and those of their families. 

2016 is here!  It promises to be another great year for our church.  Our 50th Anniversary isn’t far off…2018 will be a big year of gratitude and celebration for us.  A committee to plan our 50th anniversary will be formed this year—would you like to be a part of it?

Yours in Christ,                                                                                                                                                                                                          
Karin R. Mitchell+

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Dear Friends,

T his note comes with my deepest wishes and prayers for a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year for you and for those whom you love. Advent seems to fly by each year, and I appreciate more and more the small moments of peace and tranquility I am able to find throughout the month of December. Now
Christmas is almost upon us and we must be ready to greet our Lord!

This season our Women’s Discussion Group, AKA Lunch & Learn, has been reading Karen Armstrong’s book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. Boy, our timing couldn’t be better! This comes at a time when our country is being roiled by a debate about the place of our Muslim brothers and sisters in our common life together. It is a discussion that has deeply disturbed many in the Christian community.

Armstrong’s premise for the “Charter for Compassion” is the Golden Rule. She points out that nearly all the major world religions have some variation on what we know as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or as Jesus would say “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Armstrong points out that if we learn to treat others as we would like them to treat us, the world will be a more peaceful place.

Compassion begins when we empathize with others, refrain from judging them and as St. Paul said, “consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first, but everybody thinks of other people’s interests first” (Philippians 2:2-4). Compassion is a true test of spirituality. How can we bring compassion to our public discourse? How can we bring our Baptismal Promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being” into our world and our own lives?

We can begin by consciously adopting the positive and the negative versions of the Golden Rule: not only treating others as we would like to be treated, but also by not treating others as we would like not to be treated. By putting this into practice in our own lives, we can change our worlds. We can model compassion and live in ways that do not depend on demeaning others in order to prop up our own egos or
assuage our fears. This is the way that Christ has called us to live as his disciples.

We CAN be the change we want to see in the world. It begins here, with each of us. The attempt to become a compassionate person is a lifelong project, one that we can embark on together and support each other’s efforts.

As we greet the Christ Child this Christmas, let us each make a pledge and a promise to respect the dignity of each person we encounter and extend Christ’s compassion to all.

Christmas blessings,