Dear Church Family:
There are twelve days of Christmas. I rejoice in this fact since some of you will not receive this greeting until after Christmas Day. It is my hope and prayer that the tardiness will allow you to savor Christmas even more – to see it as a twelve-day experience with wonder and awe continuing throughout the celebration.
It has been a year of transition and change, blessing and delight for Mount Vernon Place. It is a joy to think about the ways in which we have seen God at work. I regularly tell people that there is no other faith community of which I would rather be a part, and this year has reaffirmed my commitment to this statement and my excitement for being in ministry with you.
We are ending 2009 with a 20% increase in worship attendance over 2008. We have welcomed many new people into the life of our congregation – neighbors who walk to worship each Sunday, individuals who read something about Mount Vernon Place that provoked them to come once and who have been here every Sunday since, people who are new to the community, and people who are traveling several miles to be here. It is a joy to see the growth that is happening in the congregation – not just numerically but also as people grow spiritually, demonstrating a willingness to allow the gospel to change and transform them and us.
In September, we welcomed a new Director of Music and the Arts. Kevin Durkin moved from Buffalo, NY, where he served as a teacher and chair of the fine arts department for a high school in addition to serving as the organist and choir director at a large church. Under his leadership, the choir has quadrupled in size and new ideas for how to expand our reach through music and the arts are emerging each week.
In October, we dedicated 22,000 square feet of new ministry space, welcomed the arrival of Wesley Theological Seminary students who are living above the church offices, and greeted several new building partners. Seminary courses have been meeting at the church since August, and the seminary has two offices in the lower level of the new space. In addition to the church staff members who work in the office suite, we have the joy of several other organizations working alongside us including Prison Outreach Ministries and Generations of Hope Development Corporation. And, Courtney’s House moved into my old office in the historic church, continuing their efforts to get victims of sex-trafficking who are 11 to 18 years old off the streets and into a safe environment. Besides these partners, we have a baker using the kitchen two days a week, a jazz group that practices here on Monday nights, a theatre group who is here on Thursday nights, and the Undercroft Theatre has been used widely by a variety of different groups including the Capital Fringe Festival. These groups are just as sampling of the ways in which the vision of a building that is open and used as much as possible is really coming to life.
Our Charge Conference, held on October 31, was quite significant. At this annual meeting, we had the opportunity to vote on approving two of our members as candidates for ordained ministry. Beth Ludlum and Adam Briddell will now continue the journey of going before the District Committee on Ordained Ministry and then the Conference Board upon their graduation from Wesley Theological Seminary. In addition to Beth and Adam, we have two other members who are in this process. It is a joy to think about the gifts these individuals are bringing and will continue to bring to the United Methodist Church. Following the approval of these two candidates, the individuals attending the Charge Conference voted to become part of the Reconciling Ministries Network, adding our church’s name to the list of congregations and campus ministries across the nation that are working to make sure that all people are fully welcome within the life of our congregations and ministries. The diversity of the congregation at Mount Vernon Place is one of the things I love most. This place truly is a place where one can come as they are, and I am thankful for being able to proclaim that all are welcome here.
As we look to 2010, I am excited to see the ways in which God will lead us and guide us, empowering us to be an ever present sign of God’s reign among us. Thank you for the privilege of being your pastor. It is one of the greatest gifts God has given to me.
Merry Christmas, Pastor Donna