Riverside Church Year End Update 2012
Dear Riverside family and friends,
As I look back over this past year at Riverside, 2012 has proven to be what I think of as our year “of turning the page.” At year end, with God’s grace, we seem poised on the verge of a new and blossoming season of life and ministry together. A chapter in our story is coming to its conclusion and a new adventure waits to be written.
The last three years have challenged us financially. In 2012, we are turning the page. Your generosity and faithful giving has provided some of our larger months of stability than we have experienced in the last several years. For the first time in a long while we expect to meet our budget at years end and to stand steady on solid financial ground. We give hearty thanks to God.
The last several years have challenged us locally. Our gospel presence in the community had waned. In 2012, we are turning the page. After years of prayer, a ministry of Riverside Church began on the campus of Webster University. Nearly thirty of you gave multiple Saturdays to rehab a house so that our campus ministers (Steve and Grace) could live in this community for the sake of college students. Mark and Gail led us so well. In addition, Riverside Church found itself at the heart of the Alliance for Interracial Dignity partnering with local school and business leaders to facilitate hospitable dialogue and healing among black and white neighbors here in the 63119 zip code. We took a strong leadership role in public meetings and partnered with a local African American congregation for a month of church exchange in which our members and theirs visited. Through our Deacons and a series of pulpit messages, we also deepened and expanded our partnership with Webster Rock Hill Ministries for the purpose of caring for the impoverished among our community. Riverside continues to have visitors and regular attenders who do know follow Jesus but who have honest questions, as well as those who have been burned by church and for the first time in a long while are risking church again with Riverside. We also have had the privilege of several pastors visiting with us over this past year for refreshment and counsel. Also, Avenues Counseling is increasingly becoming known in our community as a place in which people can find the care that they need. Our ministry of behind the scenes care continues to grow. We give thanks to God for His grace.
The last several years have challenged us in terms of ministry to children. We have as many kids as we do adults! What a joy! This past year our volunteers implemented several organizing and structural pieces to strengthen our ministry to kids. For all of you who volunteer you should know that when people visit Riverside one of the things they say this year is their sense of safety and encouragement that they experienced with our love for kids. You all work so hard for their sakes! Our older kids ministries have not only grown, but God has also given us the privilege this year of ministering to kids who don’t otherwise go to church. We are turning the page. What grace!
The last several years have challenged us in terms of worship space, musicians and music teams. As we begin 2013, we have a new sense of purpose and vision among us. With the arrival of Chad and Bliss, we have identified two teams of Riverside folks using their gifts to help us think about our use of space and our full-hearted worship.
The last couple of years have challenged us in terms of vision. We’ve spent an increased time in God’s Word this year with men’s and women’s bible studies and retreats, with house groups and by a steady pulpit picture of our vision. We explored the Gospel Waltz and the Grace that Leads us to Mission. We listened to the questions that our young people ask. We’ve talked about the various kinds of fatigue that we each face and the kinds of rest that grace provides. We tried to find what it means to see God among the widows and farmers that the book of Ruth reveals to us. We’ve meditated on the Lord’s Prayer and sought to explore what it means that Jesus is our King. We are learning that we are the church of the long haul. We seek lasting relationships. We want to go the distance one day a time in Jesus. We are beginning to taste the gospel power of doing small things slowly for a long period of time. Our relationships, marriages, jobs, house groups, parentings, and ability to go through hard times urge us toward this gospel power!
We were able to celebrate our ten year anniversary as a church (and what a loud and joyful time that was!) I received the privilege of celebrating four years together with you as your pastor. For those of you who were with me and my children at the beginning, and then with Jessica and I in our first season of marriage, your long faithfulness to wait and pray and bear with me is beginning to bear its fruit. You teach me about grace. Thank you so much. We are turning the page.
There is more to say but as you know I tend to go long :-) So, I better stop here! I am grateful to grow with you as a human being in Jesus. I’m glad to serve as your pastor. Please join the elders and me as we give thanks to God for his kindness to Riverside. Please continue to pray each other and for us.
With steady prayer for you from Matt, Simon and I,