I often talk about yin and yang and how the good the bad and the ugly often go hand in hand. Without a doubt, this has been the most difficult of all the years that I have been pastor. Stresses and challenges have been ongoing. It’s been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, and, at times, school teaching seemed like a holiday! But when I look back over the past twelve months, I am filled with much joy at the amazing ways God is leading us, the Open Door congregation, to grow into a tree that bears much fruit. I am humbly aware of my shortcomings in this role at times and am so grateful for the support, direction and leadership of my two counsellors, Bill Gillard and Helen Taylor. I am also filled with joy to see our new priesthood growing in confidence as they step into new roles and responsibilities in our congregation. But most of all I see you, our congregation, being the hands and feet of Jesus for each other, and those around you. And I realise that it is not the visible, noticeable jobs, but the behind the scenes, unenviable tasks that are quietly taken care of, that give me most joy. Giving the toilets a clean, helping someone carry stuff in from the car, taking out the rubbish bin, picking someone up for church. In each small task, I see the spirit of Christ in action, in you, for which I am truly grateful.
Our average weekly Sunday night attendance for the year is 22. Wouldn’t it be great to see this rise to 30 by the end of 2016? People loving being together with God and each other! Yahoo! When we stop to consider all the other things that have been going on, however, we see that we are actually being the church more than just Sunday evening. We are becoming a seven day a week church!
In February of this year BJays café began under the leadership of Trish Sammut. Meeting every Wednesday for two hours, this new ministry has averaged around ten people in attendance each week. Thank you to Julie Bradley and Anne Bonnefin for working with Trish in this first year of BJays.
Another new initiative that began this year is the ‘Youth is Knocking’ youth group. We have welcomed Jamie and Leanne Powell who, with Liam Baird and Stephen Elliott, have become trained youth leaders for the formation of a rainbow youth group. We look forward to seeing this group grow in the coming year.
The Western Sydney Transgender support Group under the leadership of Stephanie Purdy, Alex Foster, Robyn Beasy and Rachel, as well as the Coming Out Group, coordinated by Liz Rayner, have continued to meet monthly, providing support to our LGBTIQ community.
The congregation has benefited from twice monthly bible studies and care and share groups, capably led by Rob Millington and Trish Sammut.
Other important events this year included participation at Fairday and the Mardigras Parade. Close to thirty people marched with the Open Door in the parade this year under our wonderful ‘Love is Love’ banner. And more than twenty volunteers assisted in running our stall at Fairday in February.
Our IDAHOTB event this year was quite memorable as we combined the planning with other Western Sydney LGBT groups. More than 200 people attended the picnic on May 17 at Regatta Park, Penrith, with local performers presenting music and entertainment, to ‘Shine the Light’ on homophobia and transphobia.
Marriage Equality lobbying and workshops were a part of our calendar this year, under the leadership of Wayne Chilver. Some of our congregation met and spoke with local member Fiona Scott, and collected signatures to present to her. On August 30th Fiona Scott was our guest at our Family Night, and God’s presence was strong as we combined religion, politics and marriage equality into a worshipful time together.
The formation of the Care team this month is also a highlight for our congregation. Seventeen people have volunteered to be care bears and attended our workshop a couple of weeks ago to be part of this pastoral care ministry.
We have had so many wonderful moments together this year, that when I look back, the difficult moments start to fade. God is blessing us, helping us, and directing us to make a difference!
I happened to open up my Pastor’s report from 2004, back when we were about ten in number, and saw back then that I had written,
What is next? You may well ask. I believe that God has work for us to do. God has empowered us to create and solidify this community for a purpose. It is up to us to be ready to be who God wants us to be and to have that door open for who God next sends our way. Let’s be prayerfully open to where the Spirit is leading us in the next twelve months. I believe God has a work for us to do. And I hope and pray that we each are ready to say “Here am I Lord, send me.”
When I think about ‘what is next?’ for 2016, I see how truly how God has been growing us over the past decade. I see God’s transforming power at work in each of you. I see how you respond to the gentle promptings of the good Spirit and find new ways to show Love for one another and the world around you. We are about the mission that matters most, the mission of Jesus Christ. May Christ’s mission bring you added joy in the year ahead. What a privilege it is to be sharing this joyful journey with each of you!
Thanks be to God!