What is our narrative at Faith Lutheran Church in 2019?
The word, ‘narrative’, means story. In this Annual Report, which catalogues and describes events and figures from 2019, you will find our narrative, our story.
But let me encourage you to read everything between the covers of this Annual Report. In other words, you can’t just read a part of it or only one or two of the documents you find in the table of contents. That is, if you want to get the whole story.
It’s like eating your favorite hamburger. The overall taste is what makes it such a great hamburger compared to others. You won’t get it by only eating the tomato, the relish, the mustard, the bun or even just the meat – and leaving the rest out. It’s all about sinking your teeth into the whole of it that you can say: “This is the best burger ever!”
The whole story includes the numbers and the words. The whole story includes the pictures as well as the tables of data. The whole story includes even items that you would not normally ‘eat’ on their own. Eating curry paste by itself can be a harrowing experience. But mixed in just right with other ingredients, it can make a meal a wonderful thing.
So, I encourage you, in these pages to digest its entire contents, ponder the ‘big picture’ and take it in as a whole. Then, you might get a taste of the narrative that is Faith Lutheran Church in 2019, and beyond.
The narrative of loss
2019 for me was marked by personal loss, especially at the death of my father and former pastor of Faith, Jan Malina. I experienced much love and support from parishioners and friends in the community. It is one thing, over twenty-two years of ordained ministry, to offer others support when they lose a loved one; it is quite another to be on the receiving end of the care and grace given by others when I couldn’t function in that helping role. Thank you.
Besides the number of funerals experienced in our community in 2019, the year also saw another kind of loss. After nearly a decade of serving as primary musician at Faith, David Santry took leave of us to pursue music ministry in another congregation. We say goodbye to him with sad hearts for we miss his energy, skill and dedication to our community.
The narrative of gain
Highlights in worship over the past year, for me, include the Good Friday worship service done in conjunction with Cityview United Church – whose liturgy included a physical moving about our sanctuary and ended in the sanctuary at Cityview; and, whose theme focused on the Stations of the Cross vis-à-vis the environment and the world’s sin today. We continued to build our relationships with other local congregations such as Julian of Norwich Anglican evidenced by another strong turn-out at our annual joint Christmas morning worship service.
As well, a baptismal service in October stands out for me, when we joined hands in a circle around the sanctuary passing a ribbon and singing “Bind us together, Lord, bind us together in love.” Music continues to be a strong element defining our identity and passion in the congregation.
What worship experiences stand out for you, in the past year?
A narrative of gain was also evidenced by welcoming new members, a trend which continues into the new year. As well, for the first time in at least three years, the budget of 2019 posted a healthy surplus.
A financial narrative
A narrative approach tends to combine what is sometimes deconstructed. For example, we normally separate the finances from everything else. We keep the numbers to the end of the report. And sometimes these are not even included, due to timing challenges, until the last minute, and on separate photocopied documents handed out at the annual meeting. I don’t offer this as judgement but merely as exposing our bias towards keeping certain items separate.
Normally we have kept a separate record of ‘outside charity’ donations, and outside the budget. Our missional activity, recorded in this way, tells the story of members’ activity apart from the operational and functional work of the church.
Yet, from a narrative approach, if members of Faith value these outside charities, I have to ask, then why is this activity not included in the budget? Why do these efforts of the Faith community not belong in the big picture of how we spend our financial resources? Separating these individual interests are from the budget proper, suggests the only thing we are committed to do together, is take care of ourselves — our own internal needs in maintenance, building and salaries. I know that is not who aspire to be. Because there is over $21,000 in 2019 that individual members donated to outside charities and missions that is not accounted for in the budget.
Our purpose, narratively speaking, is not to direct traffic for these other charities. It doesn’t make sense to involve Faith merely as an administrative intermediary for other charities that issue income tax receipts themselves. What resources we do have need to be channelled towards mission initiatives which we commit to, together. These mission initiatives can be what we have historically supported and have formed our identity as a congregation in West Ottawa and a member of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
And these ministries and mission initiatives, in this view, need to be integrated into our narrative, including the financial structure of our mission and work. Let me mention just a few that might be incorporated into our budget (and not left outside of it), such as Lutherlyn Camp & Conference Centre, Algonquin Campus Ministry, the Ottawa Lutheran Refugee Sponsorship Committee, and the Ottawa Mission. You will notice that Carlington Chaplaincy has historically remained within our budget, and has been the only exception.
What would you add to this ‘mission’ list? What are mission initiatives that our communitycan rally around, ministries in the community and in the world that reflect who we are and where we have come from (i.e. our narrative)?
Presenting a narrative tends to integrate all these elements into a wholistic approach. Some written reports about programs and ministries, you will notice, include financial costs involved in exercising that particular ministry. I hope you can see the integration of costs as exercising quality programming. In other words, there tends to be correlation between level of financing and quality of ministry. This applies as much to Christian Education and Pastoral Care programming as it does to paying the organist.
Bringing it all together
The entire Scriptures reflect the grand narrative of God’s relationship with God’s people – from the creation of the world to the story of God’s people under kings and prophets, to the story of Christ with us and for us, in the early church all the way to a vision of God’s kingdom and God’s future which is good.
May how we ‘do church’ in the coming decade celebrate the narrative of who we are, in this time and place in history. Even when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of budgets, updating constitutions and submitting these reports every year. We need to present who we are to the world in a compelling and accurate way that tells our story, and makes the case why they would want to support us with their presence, commitment and dedication.
Stories come to an end but – from a faith perspective – do they really? A narrative is not something that ever ends. It remains open for interpretation. Throughout this introduction to your 2019 Annual Report, I have left you with a couple questions, to fill in the blanks. Because you, the reader, are an important part of the ongoing narrative. We write our story together, not apart.
What will you say about our narrative?