A Year Like No Other
A Message from Pastor Bryan
I’ve written a lot of Annual Reports over the years, but never one like this.
Our sanctuaries were empty every Sunday.
And yet thousands gathered for worship online every week.
We never passed an offering plate.
And yet we met our budget, gave generously to COVID relief locally and globally, and raised funds to build-out our Digital Ministry.
We had no programs for children or students in our buildings.
And yet we partnered with parents like never before, empowered leaders to stay connected to their kids, and designed and executed the first ever virtual Kids Week and Student Ministry Retreats.
No small groups met in homes over coffee and snacks.
And yet virtual groups became our relational lifeline, thanks to the accessibility of technology and the faithfulness of group leaders and members.
There were no crowds at church on Christmas or Easter.
And yet our virtual services reached more people than ever, and some who found us in those services are now part of the Grace Chapel family
THE WAY OF JESUS
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, our Teaching Journey began last summer as we wrestled with the presence and purposes of God in times of distress by following the Old Testament story of Joseph, in a series entitled: God With Us?
As the new school and ministry year got underway, with all its challenges and uncertainty, we decided we could do nothing better than to follow Jesus as he called and led his followers to faith, growth, and mission. We spent most of the year exploring the two-volume work known as Luke-Acts. Our series titles included:
- Disrupted: Following Jesus Out of the Box
- Comfort and Joy (Advent 2020)
- Finite Disappointment, Infinite Hope and associated Podcast
- Fast Forward
- Finding Our Way Forward
A particular challenge this year was to offer biblical guidance on the integration of faith and politics, and the pursuit of racial healing and justice. We explored these topics in some stand-alone messages, and in a series entitled: Serpents and Doves: Building Bridges in Polarized Times, and in our Global Awareness Theme: Building Gospel Bridges.
A particular opportunity this year provided was to grow in our ability to preach and worship online. Preachers have learned to connect and communicate through the camera, and enjoyed the chance to preach from a barn, a beach, an office building, and the great outdoors!
I’m so grateful for the Teaching Team that works with me to discern, design, and deliver the preaching ministry of the church. God has granted us a diversity of gifted voices to help us hear and apply God’s Word to our lives.
After years of dabbling and dreaming, the shutdown forced us to go all-in on digital ministry. We made a commitment at the beginning of the shutdown that our Sunday Experience would get better each week, and with God’s help, and a spirit of teachability and creativity, we’ve been able to deliver on that goal and promise. Beyond the Sunday experience, every department of ministry, from Children’s and Student Ministries to Groups and Care and Partnerships, have all adapted their programs and leveraged technology to reach, grow, and care for people online.
As we look to the future, and begin to re-enter our buildings, we know that in-person and online ministry will work in tandem to reach and serve more people, with greater impact, than ever before in our history. To that end, we have raised funds, reorganized our staff, and re-imagined church to be relevant and effective in the new “phygital “world that’s upon us.
From the beginning, we have said and believed that God would use this disruptive season to change us, grow us, and re-form us as individuals, households, and a church. As we look to the new church year, it’s not about getting “back” to where we were, but about moving “forward” with God as He leads us into the next chapter of Grace Chapel’s story. We look forward to re-engaging everyone we’ve missed this past year, and to be engaging with many new people, both those who have found us online, and those who will be looking for spiritual connection as we emerge from the pandemic.
Key elements of the new normal will include a new or renewed investment in:
- Care and Connection: re-establishing our relationships with one another and ministering to one another in the wake of a pandemic
- Community Engagement: serving our local communities and city in Jesus’ name
- Growth and Outreach: reaching more and more people who are far from God and church
GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS
Every time I have re-gathered on a Grace Chapel campus recently, that familiar chorus has been ringing in my ears. God has been more than faithful to us through this most challenging of years – providing for us, sustaining us, growing us, and keeping us connected. And YOU have been faithful, as well– praying, serving, giving, and showing up virtually. I’m grateful for each one of you, and the unique contribution you make to Grace Chapel simply by being yourself and being present in any and every season.
I’m grateful, too, for the GC staff and elders, for their dedicated, resilient, and adaptive servant-leadership this past year. It’s been a difficult year for leaders in any setting, but I know we have found strength, wisdom, and even joy in our partnership through it all. In particular, I am grateful for my partnership with our Executive Pastor, Mark MacDonald, whose steady, skilled, and Spirit-empowered leadership have been a gift to me and to our staff and congregation in this most challenging year.
In the words of that great hymn, may our faithful God continue to grant us “strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.”
With a grateful heart,
"20+ years in Boston area and I haven’t darkened the door of a church. Thanks for awakening that place in me that hungers for conversation and companionship in a more Christian realm, though I am scared and feel often not worthy. To think it all started by keeping it real when Christmas Eve was presented in a barn, as the visual made it more real than ever, making it even seem inviting. I hope I have conveyed my thanks for your ministry. It has made a difference in at least the life of one person, myself." (From an online viewer)