As Christmas Eve Approaches Shalimar UMC, I am So Grateful for You and Merry Christmas

This is our last Beacon for the year and my last article for 2020. I had some things I wanted to say to our congregation from the heart. Here goes with some grateful sharing with you and for you!

You have risen to the occasion not one year but two years in a row. We had some differences of opinion in 2019 about a Master Plan. I am grateful that you hung in there through the "testy" months of disruption that followed. After a few disconcerting months, you as a congregation began to regroup. The leadership and I began to chart simple steps forward into the New Year 2020.

In the early months of 2020, we continued to chart those simple steps. We began to look ahead and not behind us and move toward the future. At the end of February, we started to see signs that our congregation had weathered the storm of 2019. Little by little, we began to get some traction to move forward. As we moved into March, our congregation was beginning to look ahead again and not behind.

When we were beginning to feel some confidence again, a second challenge came to our congregation. This was not an internal challenge but rather an external one with the likes we had never seen before – COVID-19. Suddenly, in-person worship ceased. How bizarre! None of us had experienced anything like this! There was no playbook. We found ourselves in a significant disruption again. How in the world would Shalimar UMC bounce back from the difficult year of 2019 and now endure a world pandemic? Would two difficult years back-to-back do in our congregation?

Despite these events that have unfolded, our congregation and staff have written a most positive story. What we have witnessed in the last ten months has been remarkable! Our people, by in large, have stayed steadfast. Even with mask-wearing, social distancing, months of no "in-person" worship, our congregation has remained together. Our Livestream has been a lifeline for many. Who would have thought it! Amazingly, we have more unity in our congregation at the end of 2020 than we did in 2019! I give credit to you for not only "hanging in there" but growing through the adversity. We know this power for unity does not come from us. Only God can take a church, as conflicted as we were in 2019, and make us more united through this crazy COVID-19 year!

When we launched the "BE RENEWED" commitments two months ago, I wondered, as many of you, how would we able to do this? Our world, nation, and the church had been through so much. As I anticipated our first stewardship results for the year, I must confess I wanted to cover my eyes and peak not knowing the status. Then I learned what I already knew. God is good, and you are faithful! The first glimpse provided an unbelievable and encouraging response considering all we had been through the last two years. Who would have imagined we would be ahead of last year, after a year in a world pandemic! Only God can bring a congregation through two tough years and become stronger! We are not finished with our challenges, yet our congregation's resilience bodes well for the future! I am confident in the Lord and grateful for you!

Your generosity in a tough time continues to amaze me as well. There were the most angels on the Angel Tree that I recall, and they were all sponsored, thank you. The teenage gift card response has overflowed this year! Our thanksgiving response to help families was equally generous! Our congregation came out of the woodwork to help!

We have had ongoing missions emerge this year as well. The Bread House provides an awesome presence and food in these desperate times for so many in our community. The Blessings for Children has been a constant resource to help families with essentials they may not be able to afford otherwise. Lives have been changed, and the needs of families have been met. The Bread House and Blessings for Children have been two of the most positive and impactful stories written by our church over the past ten months. Thank you for stepping up, Shalimar UMC!

With the Lord's help, we will shift gears as we move into 2021. The last two years have been more about "surviving." How about we spend some time next year, "thriving." Our theme for the 21 days of worship in January is THRIVING! The Lord willing, and with our continued resilience, better days are ahead! I look forward to sharing the first 21 days with you! Please know I give God thanks for you every day!

In the meantime, I look forward to worshiping with you in the week ahead. There has never been a year when we needed to worship Jesus, the newborn King, as this one. I look forward to lifting the candle and singing Silent Night with you next week! You are a remarkable congregation! I am honored to be your Lead Pastor! O come let us adore Him Christ the Lord!

Merry Christmas!
Philip
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Philip McVay

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