From the Apostle Matthew
Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and the Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every good gift, and above all, with the gift of eternal life, here, now and forevermore.
Greetings sisters and brothers in faith! I write this the day after the Annual Meeting when I shared some of the joys and challenges of my journey as senior minister of AHCC. If you would like a transcript of my remarks, please email Denise Doran in the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I conclude my ministry among you, and prepare to transition into what God will soon reveal, I would like to thank you, the members of the congregation, for calling me to serve as the ninth senior minister of AHCC on November 20, 2011. It has been my honor and blessing to be your pastor and spiritual leader. I have grown tremendously during our years together and I hope and pray you have as well. We are not the same church we were six years ago, even as the core ministries and commitments of AHCC remain.
Our time was neither short nor long. Regardless, it was a very active and productive journey! Together, we have accomplished much by God’s abundant grace and faithfulness.
Here are some examples:
We studied and developed plans for Member Engagement and Stewardship with task forces assembled for each of those purposes.
We drafted a new mission statement and developed a strategic plan with three-year ministry goals. Most were accomplished in stellar fashion!
We defined and found innumerable ways to practice the Simple 7: the seven simple things disciples do to grow in faith and love.
We celebrated 150 years of ministry on Asylum Hill with great thanks to our planning team led by Ezra and Chrissie Ripple.
We welcomed Program Assistant Deb Holden, Director of Operations Helena Carvalho, Associate Minister Rev. Donna Manocchio, Director of Discipleship Rev. Mia Douglas, Director of Children and Family Ministries Marcie Jackson, Youth Director Kara Price, Organist and Music Associate Susan Carroll, Director of Music and Arts Jack Pott and Bookkeeper Meredyth Aregood. And we continued to benefit from the glorious gifts of Rev. Erica Thompson, Kyle Cannon, June Day, Denise Doran, Jorge Fuentes, Joan Hopper, Rhonda Mitchell, Kathleen Sullivan and Mary Way.
We created the Grandy Building Preservation Fund.
We updated our look by overhauling our website, logo, letterhead and other print materials.
We created an online member database.
We established a Stewardship Committee to enhance our focus on the importance of stewardship as an expression of discipleship.
We welcomed 260 new members into our community of faith.
We celebrated the lives of dozens of members and family of members who transitioned from this life into glory. We bid a fond farewell to those who moved out of the area.
We renovated two homes and built a new one on Huntington Street.
We enjoyed mission trips to Ecuador, South Dakota, Missouri, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Michigan.
We raised funds to renovate several stained glass windows in dire need of repair.
We greatly improved our audio and video system in the sanctuary and added screens.
We celebrated the 50th Annual Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival.
We began live-streaming Sunday morning worship.
We added an automatic door to make our building more accessible.
We enjoyed scores of worship series for many seasons of the church year to bring creative and meaningful continuity to our worship journey.
We welcomed guest preachers to our pulpit with the support of an endowed fund (the Shirley Morgan Fund), as well as a wide variety of guest speakers and educators.
We celebrated Music for Humanity events and a new summer Jazz on the Lawn event.
We transitioned Stephen Ministry into Circles of Care.
We created “Villages,” small geographically based, sub-congregations of our church to provide another layer of care and connection.
We launched new Christian Sharing Groups, prayer groups, support groups and many Bible studies.
We followed the lead of our youth and designated a bathroom as “ALL GENDER.”
We explored what it means to be a “justice-seeking” church in addition to our meaningful and longstanding tradition of meeting the immediate needs of our neighbors near and far.
We welcomed Affinity Groups focused on curbing gun violence and on refugee resettlement.
We renovated the front office.
We began a renewed partnership with West Middle School.
We redistributed our used Bibles to a congregation in Nigeria when we purchased new ones.
Our ministers began working with a new a multi-faith, justice-seeking partnership with 40 other Hartford area clergy, organized and supported by the Christian Activities Council.
… and probably a dozen other things that have slipped my mind! No doubt you could add to this list.
Can I take credit for all this stuff? Heck no! Every new venture was the result of clergy, staff and church members dreaming, praying and working together. All in all, I hope we have grown as disciples, and developed a closer walk with the Lord and each other. If I have contributed to deepening and developing the faith of the church, I am truly grateful and feel I have fulfilled the call you extended to me.
Friends, much has been accomplished. And much more is yet to be revealed. I’m honored to have served among you as we crossed the bridge from our first hundred fifty years into the next. I encourage you to be persistent and patient in the days to come. You would be wise to embrace an interim time of discernment, guided by a skilled pastoral professional. The church, and my ministry, would have benefited from such an intentional interim period between Rev. Gary Miller and myself. I pray you take the time to work with leadership to prayerfully discern and chart your future together.
As I tearfully close this, my last “epistle” for the Hill Church News, I offer you Paul’s conclusion to the church in Philippi: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
To God be the glory! Because God is good … all the time.
Amen and alleluia.
- Rev. Matt Laney