As we get closer to Christmas and the end of the year, this is going to be the last Covenant Weekly podcast for a few weeks. We’ll get to be together this coming Sunday as we reflect on Peace this Advent Season. And, of course, there is Christmas Eve and I hope to see many or most of you there for our services at 4 and 6 pm. But to wrap up our Covenant Weekly for the year, I am going to take just a few minutes to say Thank You.
As I say “thank you” this morning, I just want to be clear that this is from me. I’m not trying to speak on behalf of the church. I’m saying thank you from my position as the pastor at Covenant. I also want to be clear that my memory isn’t phenomenal and I know that I will miss some people and some special events that I should say thank you for. So thank you in advance for your grace in the event that I do so!
With that preface, I want to say thank you to you as a Covenant Family for being a welcoming family. It is hard to believe, but Angie, the boys, and I have been here for over seven years now. 2023 will be our ninth calendar year among you. That is a long time for us! Not every relationship has been easy and not every step smooth, but by and large, you have welcomed us and embraced us in your lives. We don’t take that for granted. It is pretty unique to have two former lead pastors in the congregation and to still be welcomed so openly. I want to thank Glenn and Elise specifically for their welcome and ongoing support. I’m honoured to be a part of this community with you and I’m so grateful that you continue to use your gifts and wisdom as a part of the Covenant Community.
Thank you, Covenant Family, for embracing my family. It would be very easy for a church to view the pastor’s family as just that…the pastor’s family…and not see the individuals for who they are. Thank you for recognizing and affirming each of them for their own unique personality and the gifts that they offer. Thanks for hearing Angie’s voice as her own voice. It is different than mine and we are all better for listening to it. And thanks for being a people that my sons are glad to be a part of. It’s a special thing for a pastor when my sons want to be involved. When my oldest is away at school he’s gotten connected to a good and much larger church in St. Catharines. But he’s excited to come to Covenant when he’s back at home. I can tell you for sure, it isn’t to hear my preaching! It’s because you have welcomed him and because of you, it feels like home. Thank you.
Thank you for being a pleasure to serve alongside. When I meet with the deacons or sit with the board or gather with other leaders, I don’t sense agendas being driven other than “How can we best follow the way of Jesus together and serve this family well?” This is true whether our music leaders are choosing songs, we’re having our congregational meeting, or we’re pursuing a Compassion project together. We may not always agree with each other's preferences, but we seek to show love the love of Christ to each other…even when it might be hard to do so.
And thank you for serving. The past few years have really thrown a wrench into people’s ability to serve causes and communities beyond themselves. I’m so thankful that Covenant has been a community that has continued to have the volunteers we need for any given moment. For those who have carried a larger load while we wait for others to have the wherewithal to join back in, thank you. For those who are stepping back in, thank you. For those who have not stepped back into different areas yet, thanks for being wise enough to get the rest you need.
When I think about serving, I’m especially thankful for the teams of people who make Sunday morning happen - our tech team, our music teams, and our Covenant Kids volunteers. Thanks for all you do. I’m looking forward to the new year when, because leaders are able to step up again, we’re going to be able to start up a Sunday morning youth class again! And thanks for the beautiful way you, as a Covenant family, welcome people among us. Just this past Sunday, it was beautiful to see individuals going over and greeting new people among us. You were learning names and making introductions. It was wonderful to see the church in action.
Thanks for picking each other up. I see us bearing each other's burdens, whether it be encouraging a grade 7 student, offering a blessing to a high schooler, holding up someone who is grieving, being a shoulder to cry on, being patient when things don’t go the way they probably should, or thinking about ways to better include people and remove barriers. Thank you for being people who aim to see the best rather than looking for reasons to see the worst.
Thank you for not being perfect. There’s a saying that says, “If you find the perfect church, don’t join it because you’ll mess it up!” Covenant is not a perfect church. I know that with all the things I’ve already said thank you for, we don’t do perfectly. Some days, we may not even do them well. And if because we haven’t done them well, you have been hurt by our Covenant family, I’m so, so sorry. We aren’t perfect. But because we aren’t perfect we can be open to welcoming others who also aren’t perfect. And we who are imperfect don’t need to pretend. I’m thankful that when there are tech issues, or lyrics issues, or music issues, or scheduling issues, we for the most part respond with patience and understanding. In our times together, faux pas are met with grace, interruptions are met with space, and the unpredictability of kids and youth are met with an embrace.
And because we aren’t perfect, thank you for being a community in which growth is welcome. Growth can be hard because growth involves change. But during my time here so far, Covenant has been open to healthy change. We, as people, have been open to change. I can’t be certain because I don’t know people’s hearts, but it appears to me that I’ve been able to observe some among us becoming more patient, more open-handed, more welcoming, more flexible, and more loving. Even as much of the world has become more divided and harder, God’s grace has been at work in many people’s lives to see life flourish.
But perhaps I observe that because those things have continued to grow in me in my time so far at Covenant. Each week I see or receive something that reflects the love of Christ among us. And as we focus on him and on his work among us, his Spirit changes us from the inside out. Thanks for being a catalyst for that ongoing change in me.
Each general thank you that I’ve spoken has specific stories behind it, but to share them would betray both the confidence of some and the spirit with which people serve. But be assured that you are making a difference. I’m especially grateful for Brent and Crystal and Carmen. The past few years have been kinda crazy. Working with an awesome team of people - both staff and volunteers - allows me to look back on the past year, the past few years, and the 7+ years I’ve been here so far with immense gratitude. So thank you, Covenant Family.
Just a reminder that we have one more Sunday Service of 2022. This coming Sunday is the Peace Sunday of Advent.
On Christmas Eve, December 24, we have our Christmas Eve Service. As we gather around the story of the first Christmas, there is going to be a ton of music and reflection on the question, “Who is this baby?” Our services will be at 4 pm and 6 pm. We pray that you, your family, and our community will find this time a wonderful blessing this season.
On Christmas Day, December 25, there will be some carols posted on our YouTube channel for those who would like to have something to sing along to, watch, or just have on in the background on Christmas morning.
And we will kickoff 2023 with Caroling and Communion at our Covenant Building on January 1 at 10:30 am. We look forward to a special start of the new year!
I pray that the coming weeks will be filled with an awareness of Christ’s presence, the peace of Emmanuel, and much love. If I don’t see you before December 25, Merry Christmas to you all and Happy New Year. I can’t wait to see what God is going to continue to do among us in 2023!
May the peace of Christ be with you all.