Well, 2015 sure was a lot of fun – if not a little crazy! Obviously, as a family we experienced a good deal of change. We moved from St. Louis to Palm Beach Gardens, started new jobs, welcomed a new child into this world, and just last week I learned that my doctoral project was accepted and I graduated from Fuller Theological Seminar with my Doctorate in Ministry. I’m hoping that 2016 will be a little less chaotic and hectic!
I continue to thank God every day for the great gift of being able to serve as the Pastor of Gardens Presbyterian Church. My family and I cannot thank the congregation enough for the incredibly generous welcome to this community, the constant gift of being supported in your prayers, and the blessing of being continually loved and cared for by you all. You all have and are continuing to minister to us as a family and for that we are grateful. As I have said before, through your welcome, love, embrace, and support you show us Christ Jesus. I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to specifically thank you all for the great gift you provided us as a family by extending to me some Family Leave to welcome our daughter into this world. We so appreciate the time you allowed us to have together during our first few weeks as a new family. We also thank you all for the yummy and delicious meals so many of you provided during those first weeks back home. We were blessed by your spiritual gift of providing excellent food!
In many ways, I am still settling into this new ministry at Gardens. You and I are still getting to know each other and building authentic and trusting relationships that will continue to develop and grow over our many years together. During this season of transition, as I settle in and you, the Congregation, gets used to my leadership and style, I have relied heavily on our Church Elders and Deacons and our many volunteers. One of Gardens’ strengths is the strong commitment to love and serve by its membership. We, as pastor and congregation, are truly a team called and equipped by God to labor in God’s Kingdom together for the blessing and restoration of the entire world.
Similarly, Gardens is blessed by a great ministry staff. Lynda Hart, our Office Administrator, keeps Gardens going. I know you all know what I know, without Lynda we would be in deep trouble as a church. Not only does she provide exceptional administrative leadership, but she is compassionate and caring and truly pastoral as she befriends, speaks to, and cares for you all. April Forella blesses our children with her compassion and tenderness. I love watching our children run to great “Miss April” on Sunday mornings when they first see her. It is encouraging to see growth in our Family Ministries as well. We are seeing more children participate and attend on Sunday mornings and we welcomed three new volunteers to serve in our Family Ministries this fall. Pam Peterson Heineman attends to our worshipping life as a congregation assuring that through our hymns, praise songs, and special music God is glorified and we, the people of God, lift up our voices and hearts together to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
It has been exciting to see growth during 2015 at Gardens Presbyterian Church. We welcomed 15 new members and saw our membership grow from 87 people in 2014 to 99 saints at the end of 2015, a 13% increase. Additionally, our worship attendance grew from an average of 83 people per week to 89 people per week, a 7% jump and since July of 2015 we are averaging 96 people in worship, which represents a 15% jump in attendance from 2014. As a congregation we continue to have a heart for the students at FAU’s Jupiter campus and continue to pray and pursue new ways of developing a campus ministry with the students. The fall of 2015 saw new relationships being developed between Gardens and the FAU administration and ongoing discipleship of students.
I would like to invite the entire congregation of Gardens Presbyterian Church into a year of prayer, discernment, and vision during 2016. Let us intentionally join together in prayer, conversation, and creativity as we ask God together, “what do you have for us in mission and ministry God?” I am confident that God is at work preparing us for great Kingdom-shaped mission initiatives as we seek to be an outpost of God’s Kingdom here in the north Palm Beaches.