Dear members of the Body of Christ at Trinity,
Back a few decades ago, Bob Dylan wrote a song that had the refrain, “Ah, but I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now.” That’s kind of the way I look at our congregation.
From our founding days we’ve been saying good-bye to our older folks on their way to heaven. That’s just exactly what we’re supposed to be doing. Lives of faith lead to hopeful goodbyes, with expectations that we’ll meet again in glory. Still, it’s been a difficult process of seeing our earthly numbers decline in recent years because we don’t have active people ready to replace them.
But, to my eyes, we keep looking like a younger congregation. Why? Because as I continue to age our older members don’t seem so old anymore! Life is funny that way. Once, old people were my grandparents’ age. Then they became my parents’ age. Now they’re quickly becoming my babysitters’ age. What’s next?
The challenge to our congregation is to actually become younger than we were – not just to look that way to our aging eyes.
If there is to be a coming generation of active members at Trinity, where will they come from? People who study trends say that younger people are still seeking the spirituality of their forebears. But, they’re less likely to just follow in the footsteps of their parents. A clear mission and a demonstrated passion for that mission are important to them. Ever cautious, they need a reason to care.
What’s our message to those who look at us the way we used to look at our elders? “We are the gathering of those who have been joyfully redeemed in Christ!” That breaks down the age barrier and unites us in one important demographic: we are the baptized children of God. Our mission is to be faithful to Jesus, who sends us out as disciples to gather people through baptism and teaching the Good News we share. Our passion can’t be any more genuine than when it flows from the Holy Spirit, who gathers us in God’s house of prayer.
The signs of our passion for this faith we hold can be reflected in some of the numbers we report each year. Worship attendance and baptisms are two important measures.
We averaged 56 people in Sunday worship during 2018. That’s just slightly down from 58 the previous year. But there was a pattern that should concern us. Our average Sunday worship attendance looked to be at a slight increase from the prior year – until the summer arrived. During the summer months our worship numbers slumped and we didn’t return to our springtime attendance levels until very late in the year.
That late-year rally was also reflected in a strong month of giving in December, when we almost made up enough ground to balance our budget. We did see what a dedicated effort can produce, however.
The troubling aspect of our recent years, though, is the lack of baptisms we can report. We baptized three people – two infants and one adult – in 2018. The year before that we baptized only one person. That level of activity doesn’t sustain a congregation very far into the future.
But, our reasonable concern for the future doesn’t negate our joy in the present. We’ll enter 2019 with the privilege of coming to God’s house and receiving His unchanging grace. We’ll encourage each other to rejoice in His Word and Sacraments. And we’ll continue to actively minister to our community through Lockport CARES homeless shelter, Lockport CARENet Pregnancy Center, Isaiah 61 job-training ministry, the Salvation Army, our respite program for caregivers of dementia patients, and our own food pantry.
Praise God for allowing us to be His people. And praise Him for putting us right in the heart of our city, where we have a passion for ministry in His name.
In Christ, who rejuvenates our spirits,