THE HALF-YEAR MARK: WHERE ARE WE NOW?
The mid-point of the year - Canada Day, for those up North - marks the start of summer for many people. Yet for serious Christians, it should also mark a time of reflection on how the first half of the year was lived, and how far along we are to our goals for our life in the Body of Christ.
Unlike secular clubs, the Church must first and foremost measure the spiritual progress of the faithful, which in the case of our parishes in Hamilton and Brantford, brings happy news indeed. St. George's parish is seeing growth at a rate never seen before in mission in the Golden Horseshoe. All Saints of North America continues vigorous ongoing catechism, spiritual retreats, a heavy schedule of thorough confessions, and spiritual counseling, along with the referred support of secular services where needed. This year has even seen a record number of wedding in six months - two! For only half a year thus far, it has been time well spent.
Sharing Christ's Gospel and His Church have a practical, material side, too. Each year at this time, we also evaluate where we are in these terms: have our faithful fulfilled the tithes they pledged for the support of the parish? Is the parish able to meet the costs of its buildings, clergy, and staff, to allow us to continue the mission of the Church?
Thankfully, the answer to both these questions is yes - but a qualified yes. The material condition of the parish continues to be healthy - but only because almost all our faithful meet or exceed their pledge of money and time. Many will be aware that the loss of some generous support from an Orthodox foundation (whose funds are assisting a project elsewhere in the Church) hit our parish with a massive reduction in income at a critical time. Two separate roof repair projects - one completed, and desperately needed - remain on the radar.
The support of the rector and a serving priest for our mission remain the parish responsibility. Our year-old Brantford mission of St. George's, although an unqualified success story, remains largely dependent on its mother parish in Hamilton to cover about ninety percent of its expenses, on top of many for the Hamilton church. Time will ultimately show God's unfolding grace there, as the number of its faithful grows, and develops normal patterns of tithing and labour, where burdens are shared by the majority of members, not a faithful few, but this takes time. In the meantime, what must our response be?
God has richly blessed our mission over the past fifteen years. It is because of the faithful prayer, repentance, generosity, and humility of our faithful that God has done so. As we count our blessings at this mid-year mark, let us remember that it has been and will continue to be our individual cooperation with God that will bear the fruit we long to see.
There are many other areas in Southern Ontario that need Orthodox Christian missions, just like ours. And just as we prove faithful, consistent, and generous with our time and tithing in small things, so too will God continue to guide us and help us in the big things.
And that is happy news indeed with which to begin our summer.