Dear Resurrection Family,
This is my last enote of 2020. What a year this has been – one most of us will be glad to say goodbye to! I want to take a moment to celebrate a few things about 2020 and how you, as a church, responded to the challenges of this year. But first a word about this weekend in worship – and our new sermon series we kick off this weekend: A Thinking Person’s Guide to Faith.
I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week interviewing a Nobel Prize winning microbiologist, a molecular biologist whose research addresses virology, a chemist who works in defense, an astrophysicist twice honored by NASA for his research work on cosmic rays, and a theoretical physicist and Fulbright Scholar whose passion is quantum physics. One thing all five of these scientists shared in common was a love for science and a commitment to Christ.
My interviews with them were in preparation for this weekend’s message: Science, Religion and the Rationality of God. I’d like to invite you to invite a friend to join us for this series of messages, A Thinking Person’s Guide to Faith.
Click here to view the video promo and to share it with friends on social media.
2020 has been a long and challenging year. It started off with excitement as the Kansas City Chiefs won the playoffs and, after a 50-year drought, won the Super Bowl. We celebrated with the Chiefs and had an exciting January and early February.
And then the world changed.
February 29 (this was a “leap year”) marked the first death of an American from complications related to COVID-19 and two weeks later the President declared a State of Emergency. Virtually every gathering with more than 10 people shut down. Schools, businesses and churches went online. We all learned to Zoom. And fear seized many.
But, you responded to this by giving yourselves to serve others. You began a sign campaign for first responders, showed up at hospitals to cheer on and encourage hospital workers. Your signs of encouragement showed up at police stations, fire stations, pharmacies, grocery stores – everywhere people were working to keep our community going.
You provided meals and small tokens of encouragement for thousands of hospital workers in the area. You started writing letters, preparing videos of encouragement to area hospitals and so much more.
Across the year you dramatically increased your donations of food, and hence your distribution of food, for people who had lost their jobs. In 2019 you distributed 64.5 tons of food and another $54,000 deposited with Harvesters and others for area food pantries to order food supplies. Over the course of 2020, you distributed 228 tons of food and $109,000 deposited with Harvesters and others to provide for people struggle to feed their families.
Our staff called and later wrote letters to all of our members – more than 9,000 households – praying for each household in our congregation, seeking to offer encouragement and care. Ministries developed plans to keep their people connected – choirs, ministry teams and more. We launched morning Facebook Live devotionals with our pastors and Tuesday Evening Vespers broadcasting on Facebook Live from my home. These were all designed to offer encouragement and care in a time of high anxiety. Each of our campuses pursued a variety of ministries to connect with the members at their campuses.
At the same time we moved nearly all of our ministries online – worship brought together our worship teams from all campuses. We saw worship attendance triple as people were looking for encouragement and hope. When we couldn’t visit the hospitals, we began video hospital visits. We showed up outside of senior adult communities with signs and singing. While weddings and funerals were limited to ten people, we began livestreaming them so people across the country could participate in these holy moments. We all learned to share Holy Communion online. We moved Bible studies, Sunday School classes, small groups, children and youth programming and support groups online. We worried about how our congregation would give since we were not passing an offering plate – but while 50% of our people used to give electronically, that shifted to nearly 100%.
Our services moved to television, something we had resisted, but suddenly we found we were reaching people who had never considered finding us online or coming in person. Prisoners who could no longer meet for chapel on Sundays began worshiping with us in front of their television sets.
We had an amazing Vacation Bible Camp with awesome crafts, lessons and activity boxes mailed to participants across the country. Our kids raised funds for three “bore holes” (clean water wells) in Malawi, and as a congregation you gave enough to fund 87 more wells – 90 communities who will now have clean drinking water. Nearly half of those wells have already been completed!
We named Pastor Cheryl Jefferson Bell our Pastor of Community Justice and the timing was providential as the summer saw protests in response to continuing racial injustice in our country. We spent several weeks in worship speaking to this, your Church Council drafted a statement for racial justice, several of our pastors taught a class on the Beloved Community and we redoubled our long-time commitment to understanding racism and breaking down the walls it erects in our hearts, our community and our world.
In the fall we held Coffee with the Pastors (our new member class) online for the first time ever and saw 502 adults and children join – a record for Resurrection. Seven weeks later another 175 joined online, including dozens of people from across the United States who asked to make Resurrection their church home.
In September we also held our annual Leadership Institute to inspire, equip and encourage churches and saw over 4,000 pastors and church leaders join us online for this amazing event – another attendance record.
Back to School saw us focus on encouraging teachers with signs, a letter writing campaign to educators and expressions of encouragement were sent to them (cookies as I recall). We did the same for employees at 30 local assisted living centers who go to work each day facing a degree of risk they had never anticipated.
In October we celebrated our 30th anniversary as a church, in the heat of a polarizing election season with a focus on #LoveYourNeighbor – signs and t-shirts, 30 days of kindness, and for four weeks we returned to in-person worship before the rise in COVID numbers led us to return to online only.
We held three blood drives in the midst of the pandemic, and despite the challenges, you showed up in force giving the blood drive an unbelievable year and ensuring an ample blood supply in Kansas City.
In November we spoke of Uncommon Generosity as we invited you to make your annual stewardship commitment. I worried about the annual stewardship campaign since people were not here in person to return their commitment cards, but once more you surprised me. Commitment cards returned are up by several hundred as is the average commitment. You are amazing. (If you have yet to return your commitment card you for 2021 you can still do so by clicking here.)
You also didn’t miss a beat in providing holiday meals and other assistance through our ministry partners. Across the year you provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and aid to partner nonprofit organizations across Kansas City. And we had an awesome, though very different, Joy in Serving Campaign. Instead of bringing in gifts, you generously provided funds and once again brought Christmas to hundreds of families in Kansas City.
Finally, in December we launched a second online service, giving us a chance to offer both modern and traditional options online. We provided amazing Advent children’s activity kits, and we invited you to have your own Advent wreaths at home to light your candles during worship. We tested the idea of you sending candles to your friends across the country as a Christmas gift inviting others to Christmas Eve – over 1,500 of you participated.
Finally, on Christmas Eve, I worried (you’d think I would have learned) about the Christmas Eve offering given that we were not worshiping in person – would people give as generously? We have a host of mission projects that benefit low-income children, families and communities that are funded by this offering. But once more, your generosity was astounding. I’ll share the total of the offering the weekend of January 10 as people are still making year end gifts to this offering – you can still make a gift by clicking here.
Some have wondered how many joined us for Christmas Eve candlelight services as this is always our largest service of the year. We won’t have the total TV attendance for another week, but based upon what we can tell from people signing in online and for the TV services, it will be pretty large – I’ll share this in a couple of weeks.
In the midst of a pandemic, protests over racial injustice, and a polarizing time for our country, you were the church, you served hope to more people, provided aid and support for more people, and shared the light of Christ with more people, than you’ve ever done before. I’m so proud of the ways you lived, loved and served this year.
On a final note, LaVon and I always make our final year-end gifts this week. This always begins with checking my last financial statement from the church to make sure we’ve paid off our 2020 pledge – our commitment to God we made last year. Following this, LaVon and I make year-end gifts to a number of other organizations we support.
(Not everyone is able to fulfill their pledge to the church this year due to job loss or loss of business – we understand, and we’re grateful for all who could or even gave above and beyond your pledge. Thank you, no matter how much you gave!)
If you would like to make a year-end gift to fulfill your 2020 commitment or to simply give to the ministry fund of the church, click here. (Note: The “Giving Type” is set for the Special Christmas Offering. Just select the down arrow to change it to "2020 Operating Fund.")
Reminder, we will not have Vespers tonight, but will resume in the New Year. Join me on Facebook Live Tuesday, January 5, at 7:30 pm for a time of reflection and prayer.
If you follow or like my page, you’ll be notified automatically as I go live. I’ll be coming to you from our home in Stilwell.
As you prepare to observe New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, I’d remind you of the prayer that John Wesley invited early Methodists to pray at the Watch Night services in the 18th century. It is a prayer many of you have memorized here at Resurrection.
I invite you to pray this on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, a prayer, some version of, I pray each day.
A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition
A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
Church of the Resurrection, I am so proud to be your pastor and of the ways you have incarnated Christ’s presence in the world this year. I can’t wait to see what 2021 holds!
In Christ’s Love,
13720 Roe Ave.
Leawood, KS 66224
24000 W. Valley Pkwy
Olathe, KS 66061
1601 Grand Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
601 NE Jefferson St.
Blue Springs, MO 64014
8412 W. 95th St.
Overland Park, KS 66212
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