Friday, February 24, 2017

Dear Friends,
Do you stop in at Coffee Hour after worship on Sundays?  Believe it or not, Coffee Hour is an important part of the fabric of our Christian community.  Carol and Ed Miller and our rotating Sunday hosts and hostesses work very hard to make it a time of refreshment and nourishment.  I am so grateful for their ministry!
It is also an important time of connection.  This is where relationships form and we get a chance to “find out” about each other.  Coming and going on Sundays for worship only is understandable, and sometimes necessary, but it is hard to find your place in a church community without taking the time to know and be known by others.  
I know that this is hard for many people.  I know that the introverts among us would rather not enter a space filled with other people, many of them that they do not know.  But, I ask you to give it a try….to enter that space and have a “3 Minute Conversation”.  That’s all…just 3 minutes with someone new to you. 
What can that achieve?  Well, many of us come to Coffee Hour and immediately sit down with our friends and those with whom we have church “business” to take care of.  That is fine, and encouraged…but leaves many on the “outside” looking in.  If we all do our best to have one “3 Minute Conversation” with someone we don’t know after church, we will strengthen our community by building relationships within. I encourage you to take the risk and give it a try.
What can I say in 3 minutes?   Well, first, introduce yourself.  Then, ask a question:  “Have you been coming to St. David’s for very long?”  “Where do you live?”  “Where were you brought up?”  “How did you find this church?”  “What brings you to St. David’s?”  “What do you enjoy doing?”….you get it.  Easy, soft-ball questions.  And then be curious and ask a follow up question or two.  Perhaps this could be your “Lenten Discipline”.
You will be surprised by what you will learn and how this simple practice will increase the bonds within our community as well as creating a more welcoming space for newcomers.  Connecting with newcomers helps them answer these questions:  Where do I fit in?  Can I make friends in this church?  Is there room for me relationally?  Does this church need, me?  Can I find a place to belong, and serve?  Am I safe here?
When we reach out with genuine interest to those who are new to St. David’s, we let them know that this is a place where they are welcome and a place where their spiritual needs as well as their need for belonging will be honored.
Each of us is an ambassador for this church—on Sundays and all week long.  I hope you will take that ministry seriously and reach out, connect and find out about not only your fellow church members but also visitors to our church.
Blessings,                                                                                                                           Karin+

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Rector’s Letter from the 2016 Annual Report                                  
Dear Friends,
St. David’s continued to grow in strength and vitality in 2016.  It is such a gift to minister alongside so many dedicated Christians!  We could not accomplish all that we do here without the sustained efforts of so very many.  I appreciate all you do for our church in many ways, large and small.  In 2016 we added 20 new members and our Average Sunday Attendance increased by 3!
This year we have strengthened our Outreach Program through our renewed commitment to Rise and the Wednesday evening (now twice a month) food program along with our other Rise partnerships.  We look forward to participating in a meaningful way in the new Millstone Area Habitat for Humanity building project in Hightstown in 2017.  Thanks to John Patterson and the new Outreach Committee for their hard work this year.  Significant funds were raised, and matching funds obtained from our Diocesan Global Initiatives Grant program, for earthquake relief in Ecuador and hurricane relief in Haiti.  Our congregation always rallies to respond to emergencies at home and abroad.
Our St. Paul team did some great work this year and continued its commitment to the diocesan program led by Canon Rob Droste.  Many workshops were attended, at which electronic  evangelism, Christian Formation and growing disciples were focused on.  My thanks go to  Carol Rodgers, Deacon Hank Bristol, David Miller, Ed Miller, Angela Levy, Christopher Achen, Catherine Katona and Abbi Clissold for their commitment to Christian formation and discipleship.  We began our work with a Lenten Season of Gratitude, making sure that every aspect of parish life was included in this theme.  A new Lenten Christian Formation website was created around the theme of Gratitude and the kick-off was held on Shrove Tuesday.  Inter-generational activities were planned and all were included.  It was a wonderful effort.  The team then regrouped, studied their work and in the fall held a St. Nicholas Day party to which the whole community was invited; gingerbread houses, a visit from St. Nick, and gold coins along with a movie room and dinner made for a wonderful evening.  The work of this committee led to changes and efforts in other areas of parish life such as the Duck family  planning and hosting 2 Movie Nights with great success,  my starting to offer Free Prayer sessions at Teddy’s in Cranbury this past fall and also “Theology on Tap” for young adults with Evan  Hierholzer.
David Thomsson, our Stewardship Chairperson, took on a new challenge this year and formed a committee to bring New Consecration Sunday to our church.  It was a great success, increasing the number and size of pledges for 2017.  Thanks to all for your faithfulness! A great new part of this program was our celebration luncheon hosted by Kathy & Ron Herzog.
Our Welcome/Evangelism Committee also stepped up their efforts this year.  They attended a Diocesan workshop entitled “Invite, Welcome, Connect” and used the knowledge they gained to order and distribute reusable grocery bags at Cranbury Day and the Hightstown Harvest Fair.  This created a great opportunity to talk with local people about our church.  A New  Member Dinner was held in September to welcome all those who had joined St. David’s over the past few years.  
This year we have continued to grow our Christian Formation offerings through the leadership of Father Jacob David and  Seminarian Evan Hierholzer.  They, along with David Miller and Deacon Hank Bristol have offered a very strong program at 9 am on Sunday mornings, at which attendance has grown.  Deacon Hank has continued offering Book Study/Covenant Groups twice a year which are always very well attended and well received.  Evan Hierholzer and I led a Lenten Soup Supper series on Gratitude. Our Women’s Lunch & Learn program has flourished.  Thanks to Kim Duck and Bob McKay for providing solid programs for the youth of our parish.
Thanks to David Miller, we have begun offering more labyrinth walks this year.  A Labyrinth Guild will be formed in 2017 to support this important work with the goal of quarterly walks.  Please let me know if you would be a part of this important community outreach effort.
This year we had the pleasure of welcoming an Aspirant from the diocesan Committee on the Priesthood for his formation year.    David Gooding came to us from St. Elizabeth’s in Elizabeth and added to our congregational life this year.  David shared his musical gifts with us, as well as his preaching talents and worked with our fledgling Men’s Fellowship group.  I enjoy mentoring those in the “process” and was grateful to be a part of David’s journey.  He will be missed here at St. David’s and we wish him well.
I am honored to work with Carol Rodgers, our Senior Warden and Patricia Kraft, our Junior Warden.  These dedicated women give so much time and talent to our church community and are wonderful partners in ministry for me.  Corinne Peters will be leaving our  vestry this year, having served 9 of the past 10 years! That is commitment.  Corinne has led our Finance Committee and served as liaison to our Welcoming Committee and has done so with grace and dedication.  Thank you, Corinne!  We are blessed with a wonderful vestry, a group of disciples who work very hard for our church and who  take their own spiritual growth seriously.
I began this letter by saying how much we accomplish here with the help of so many….I would be remiss not to include our staff in that statement.  Judy Henningsen has been with our church for almost 9 years and I couldn’t imagine our office without her.  Judy is a welcoming presence to outsiders and a source of support and help to our parishioners and vestry (and to me!).  Please thank her for her dedication to our church.  Tim Doutt has been a mainstay in our office as a volunteer for many years, and now, over the past few years, has been a paid staff member wearing two hats, Treasurer and Sexton.  If you ask him, he will tell you that he enjoys his work as sexton very much, treasurer—well, maybe not VERY much! But Tim does an extraordinary job of keeping our financial house in order and I thank him for his dedication to St. David’s.  Dr. Brian Katona, our Minister of Music, has been with us for almost 5 years.  He has brought our choir to new levels of excellence, brings us guest musicians and encourages our members to share their gifts with the congregation on a regular basis.  Many thanks go to Brian for his musical gifts and leadership.  Evan Hierholzer has rejoined our staff this year as Seminary Intern and his gifts have made a great addition to our Christian Formation and J2A programs.  Evan will surely be missed when he graduates from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2017.   Father Jacob David, Deacon Hank Bristol and Brother John Baptist round out our staff, as they volunteer their time here at St. David’s and enrich us with their ministry and wisdom.  I am indebted to each of them for their support and the partnerships we share here at St. David’s.  Being a solo parish priest can be a lonely occupation; these good people support me in a way that I can never adequately thank them for.  It is a great blessing to minister with each of them.
I have been honored to be a part of the discernment process towards ordained ministry for two people this year; Carol Rodgers (diaconate) and Evan Hierholzer (priesthood).  This year we have formed a Parish Committee on the Priesthood for Evan and will form a Parish Committee on the Diaconate for Carol in 2017.  This is a special time for our church, being a part of discerning God’s call to these two gifted individuals.  Please keep them in your prayers.
Deanna Emerson has agreed to chair our 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee.  The committee will spend this year planning and we will all spend 2018 celebrating the gift of St. David’s and its rich history to each of us and to our community.  This is indeed an exciting time to be a part of this church!
I pray God’s blessing on each of you with thanks for your support and for sharing this journey with me.
Yours in Christ,                              K                                                                                                                                                            
Karin R. Mitchell+ K