A little reflection on the year 2013 reveals that we have a lot to celebrate as a parish. God has been with us every step of the way and has used us to touch many lives, and the future looks very bright indeed. The state of Holy Cross parish is strong. As we begin the new year we should take some time to reflect on our blessings and give thanks for them, and to make resolutions to take our discipleship even more seriously in 2014. Here are some of the blessings for which we should be thankful:
We had more people at church on the Fourth Sunday in Advent in 2013 than we had on the Fourth Sunday in Advent in 2012, and we had had more people at our Christmas Midnight Eucharist in 2013 than we had in 2012.
When the Vestry met in December we reviewed the parish finances for the year. They are solid. As of the end of November we had more money in the bank than we had on January 1, 2013.
In December we moved into our new parish hall. The new hall is almost double the size of our old parish hall. While we were overcrowded in the old hall we seem dwarfed in the new hall, but that is a good feeling. It gives us plenty of space for expansion.
In 2013 we contributed 4,997 pounds, or about two and a half tons of much needed food to the Open Door Mission. That is more than four times our original goal and an absolutely amazing amount of food! In addition, our first donation of food for 2014 was taken to the Open Door Mission this week and it totaled 300 pounds. By God's grace we are feeding a lot of very needy people.
In 2013 we delivered a vast amount of donated gourmet bread to the Francis and Siena House Shelters. Deliveries are made every Friday and one Saturday of the month, and I am told that each delivery is around 150 pounds of bread. We are currently supplying the three largest homeless shelters in Omaha with much needed food. Holy Cross is making a real difference in the lives of real people.
In 2013 we partnered with Samaritan's Purse and participated in Operation Christmas Child. Holy Cross parishioners sent many boxes of Christmas gifts to children in third world countries touching them with the love of Jesus and giving them hope and an opportunity to go on and study God's Word.
In 2013 we incorporated Gregorian chant into the Eucharistic Liturgy. Every Sunday this ancient chant is used for the minor propers in the Holy Eucharist.
At Christmas time in 2012 we established a Vested Choir at Holy Cross parish. This dedicated choir sacrifices an evening of their time every week and has blessed the parish with their music ministry throughout 2013 and into 2014.
We now celebrate the Holy Eucharist at Holy Cross parish three times every week - Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, in addition to Holy Days. We are truly a Eucharist-centered parish and everyone has an opportunity to receive the Blessed Sacrament frequently. We also celebrate the Holy Eucharist one Saturday per month in the chapel of Douglas County Hospital, bringing the gospel and the sacraments to long-term residents that are all too often completely cut off from any church community.
We are a Bible preaching and Bible teaching church where the Word of God is proclaimed and explained from the pulpit and where our adult Christian education class is taught at the college level. Parishioners at Holy Cross parish have every opportunity to partake of the sincere milk of the Word, advance to strong spiritual meat, and grow into mature disciples of Christ.
We are a praying church. We take prayer very, very seriously at Holy Cross parish. Prayer requests are taken every Sunday and we devote time for serious prayer, praying for people by name and by need. In addition, we have a well organized and active parish Prayer Chain whose members are committed to pray for those serious and immediate needs that sometimes unexpectedly occur.
Some churches are veritable burial societies, but by God's grace we had no funerals in the parish in 2013. In fact, since we began meeting for worship in a conference room of the Holiday Inn Express in the summer of 2007, we have had only one death in the parish. Only one in six and a half years. We have much to be thankful for!
Holy Cross parish is truly a united, traditional and active Orthodox Anglican Church serving Omaha and the surrounding communities. The uncompromised Word of God is proclaimed and taught, the sacraments are administered with reverence, real prayer is a priority, and the great hymns of the Church are sung, all in an atmosphere of love with an emphasis on the church as a community, as the family of God, rather than merely an institution or a building.
These are just a few of the blessings that we should be thankful for. During this Christmas season we remember that God so loved the world that in the fullness of time He sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem us from sin and death. Jesus gave his life for us that we might have life and that more abundantly, and he established his church where we could be united in fellowship with him and with a spiritual family, and where we might hear and learn the Word of God, receive the sacraments of grace, especially baptism and Holy Communion, be empowered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and continue Christ's work in the world. Jesus gave his life for us. What more could he give? Many professed Christians are merely spectators or spiritual consumers. "What am I getting out of church they often ask?" But our attitude should be much different. To paraphrase President Kennedy, ask not what your church can do for you, but ask what you can do for your church! The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers means that we are all ministers, and that means that we should all have a ministry in the church. Our mission is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not know him and the fulness of the apostolic faith to those who do, and to build up the Body of Christ. May God continue to bless us with an even greater and more effective minisrtry in 2014. May we be the first pebble that begins the avalanche that will be the New Evangelization of America and a renewal of the universal call to holiness.