A Year of Grace
This is the time of year to look backwards before looking forwards, and in many ways it has been a year of God’s grace in St Clement’s.We end the year with slightly more members than this time last year and with the Sunday and weekday attendance figures almost exactly the same as last year’s.
It is true that I would rather be reporting huge increases in all three of these figures, but to hold our own when we hear of so many other churches slipping back is a cause for thankfulness. But, of course, as with every year, we have lost several faithful members, which is always a sadness.
Seven of our members have died in the past year, Michael Arrington, Dr Joe Chapman, Belinda Clark, Charles Fagan, Dave Merkel, Edith Moeschlin and John Scott. May they rest in peace and rise in glory. We have also lost half a dozen members to the Roman Church or one of the Anglican schisms from the Episcopal Church. This is always happening in Anglo-Catholic parishes, and we wish them well in their new churches. And in a society as fluid as modern America, we have also seen faithful parishioners move to places as far apart as Canada, Florida, France, New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.
The happy converse of all this is that we have had new parishioners move into the parish. Most are from Philadelphia, but some live in Delaware, some from New Jersey, and even one each from New York and D.C. Most of our new members are youngsters (of course almost everyone looks like a youngster to me these days!) in their twenties or thirties, and some of them have very young children. I have had the joy of marrying nine couples this year, and this should mean even more babies in years to come. It has been a pleasure for me to hear a baby or two squalling during the Mass (though no doubt not so pleasant for their parents); so I have decided the time is ripe for us to revert to the situation that prevailed when I came to the parish nine years ago, when we had a creche for any parents who wanted one for their babies during the High Mass. Once this is established, it is likely to draw other families to church, and eventually such creches usually turn into Sunday Schools.
The past year has also brought us some new liturgical talent, with five new servers and a splendid new sacristan who was chiefly responsible for our marvellous exhibition of some of our finest vestments, called “Liturgy & Lace”, which over a week had not only many single visitors but also whole classes from the art and textile courses of our local universities and colleges.
However, these ups and downs in numbers are all part of the normal life of a healthy parish, and it is for the weekly and daily offering of the Mass and the Divine Office that I am most grateful. In this, I have been enormously helped by our Curate, Fr Ethan Jewett, whose ordination to the Diaconate I attended in Chicago Cathedral and then his Ordination to the Priesthood in St Clement’s (on the hottest day of the year!), which was made memorable and magnificent by the gracious ministry of Bishop Rodney Michel, our Assisting Bishop. I am also thankful for the quiet faithful help given by Fr Al Holland who, although retired, gives of his time and considerable talents not only weekly to St Clement’s but also to St Peter’s and to our Cathedral. Talk about a chameleon!
No parish priest can do his job without the help he receives from his Churchwardens and Vestry, and I can only marvel at the amount of time Ron Emrich and Curt Mangel, our Wardens, have given to St Clement’s since they took on these positions – “lang may their lums reek” (no I won’t, you can look it up!) As for or organists and choir, they are pretty close to perfection; we are deeply blessed by their ministry.
As I look forward to 2013 (during which I shall turn 70) I give thanks to God, to Our Lady of Clemency and to St Clement for the year that has passed. May the next year be even more fruitful to the glory of God.