“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1.9)
I write at near mid-year to update you on our financials for the first half of the year:
A word of encouragement: I have recently received the financial reports for Trinity through June. I write you with good news AND with a word of caution. Through the first six months of 2012 income is up nearly fifteen thousand dollars ($14,597). Expenses are down nearly ten thousand dollars ($9613). If those trends continue through the remainder of the year we will have a dramatically improved financial picture. Please thank your vestry and staff for their ongoing efforts to find ways of reducing expenses. Thanks to all of you who have been faithful in giving to the Lord and his purposes.
A word of caution: We are not out of the woods yet. We have a long way to go before our annual income meets or exceeds our annual expenses. Our financial future is still uncertain. You hold the key. We will become financially sound only through continued, conscientious efforts to reduce and control spending AND through your continued and conscientious efforts to give freely and generously to the Church.
A word of exhortation: I sense that a spirit of doubt and fear has crept into our midst and is having a very dangerous and deadly effect on some. It is like poison and we need to purge ourselves of it. Doubt and fear are work of the enemy. We live and thrive through hope, courage, and love. St John tells us that “Perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4.18)
In 1851, in Rochester, PA a group of faithful men and women, our spiritual forefathers and mothers, defied their own doubts and fears, took courage, gathered their strength and invested themselves and their financial resources into a new, risky, church plant called Trinity Church. They had few resources, a tiny congregation, no building and little reason to believe they would succeed. For many years they could not afford their own building. They met in the local Fire Hall. And things did not improve rapidly. For many years the congregation remained small. They struggled, growing at times, shrinking at times, and many must have wondered if their numbers would ever grow into a strong and financially secure church. Your forefathers and mothers kept their faith and courage, despite the discouragements, despite looming possibilities for failure that have always afflicted churches causing some to suffer doubts and fears. They took courage and they invested themselves into this new assembly. They continued to believe that their efforts were pleasing to God. And once they had begun they refused to retreat. That spirit of faith and courage has led the people of Trinity to continuously worship God as a church for 161 years!
For 161 years Trinity Church has been the Anglican presence in Rochester, Bridgeport, Van Port and Beaver. We have prayed together and stayed together all through the Great Civil War, the War with Mexico, WWI, WWII, the conflicts in Korea and Viet Nam, the first and second Gulf Wars and the war in Afghanistan. We have prayed together and stayed together through times of great national crisis: the assassination of presidents Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy, the bleak financial times caused by Black Friday in 1929 and the Mortgage Crisis of 2008, and the terrorist attacks on Pearl Harbor and on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. We have prayed together and stayed together through weak leadership and strong leadership, and through good and bad times alike. We have prayed and stayed together since the days when we rode our horses and buggies to a church lit by candlelight and kerosene lantern. And while many things have changed around us, the faith we have inherited and the Lord that we serve has remained rock solid, unchanging and ever faithful, providing us and our world with true hope, carrying us through all life’s troubles by his grace, teaching us to hope in that grace that overcomes all the uncertainty and all the doubts that plague us.
Trinity Church has survived all the hard times and has met every challenge because we have a culture, passed down to us by our spiritual forefathers and mothers, a culture that refuses to listen to the doubters. We refuse to surrender to our fears. When times get tough we take courage and gather our strength, a strength born out of our relationship with Lord Jesus Christ. We remind ourselves that God is ever faithful. We call out to Him in prayer. He has promised to lead us and guide us, and He always has. He has always provided for us when we honestly sought after Him. We take courage in God’s promises and we give ourselves to his work. As a consequence, the ministry here at Trinity Church has continued on, undaunted and against all odds, for 161 years. God has never failed us, not even in the darkest days. Rick Warren says, “Never doubt in the darkness what God has done in the light.”
We may be in one of those valleys of darkness right now but we have a bright and wonderful future because our God is faithful and our future is assured in Him. The only thing that can possibly cause us to stumble and fall would be to allow our doubts and fears to dominate our decision and cause us to turn away. But we have a cultural heritage. We do not listen to the doubter. We do not allow our fears to rule us. We take courage in our relationship with Jesus Christ, gather our strength, and devote ourselves to God’s mission here at Trinity Church.
“Rejoice always, pray constantly give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (I Thessalonians 5.16—24)
Blessings to you all! Thanks for your continuing faithfulness, strength and courage!
In Christ, Scott+
(Please remember that the expenses of the parish continue to be paid throughout the summer. Would you make sure to remember us in your giving during the summer months?)