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“Looking Forward Into 2022!”  
This evening I read several articles about what to expect in the coming year. These articles focused on what the average American might expect to see in 2022. The housing market will potentially cool as interest rates are expected to go up. The stock market is projected to cool during 2022.  There will be more cases of COVID because of the different variants. Corporations are expected to make capital investments, purchase more equipment, hire additional workforce, and pay better wages. Obviously, no one has a crystal ball, but these articles feel very comfortable about their projections and predictions. And of course, this was only several views about what will happen in the marketplace and business world.

I found these articles as I was looking for information about what churches might expect in 2022. Religious research firms have consistently predicted that worship attendance is and will be reduced because of COVID. They are still predicting this as a consequence of the virus and the many months where churches moved to virtual platforms. That statistic has proven accurate in our congregation. I will be calculating our yearly statistics in January, but our average in-person attendance is 25-30% less than it was pre-COVID. On the flip side, though, we average well over 100 persons in attendance through our weekly internet service. While I pray for life to become normal and pews to be filled again, I am also thankful for this new ministry COVID forced us to adopt if we wanted to share the gospel and worship with people who were uncomfortable or couldn’t attend services in-person. As the old saying goes, when one door closes, another opens.

As we continue to do battle with COVID fears and restrictions, I believe our ministry will evolve in ways where we continue to share the gospel while also providing safety to our members and guests. We handled the wearing of face masks well, and if need be, we can do that again. While social distancing is not a normal human behavior for us, we managed and our church was large enough to allow us to worship while also social distancing. If need be, we will do that again, so that at least we have a sense of community in an environment that would like to steal that from us. We have even re-engaged with social ministries that allow us to touch the lives of those who have genuine need. I pray that 2022 will provide us the opportunity to be the Church in the world in ways that we know and love and are familiar with, but I also know that St. John’s has wonderful leaders who will help our church do whatever necessary so that we are about the mission of the Church, which is to make Christ known.

Nowhere in my preparation for ordained ministry did I receive a crystal ball nor take a course that taught me to be a prophet. But I do know that as we move forward into 2022 and beyond, our congregation hopes to touch the lives of both believers and non-believers. We hope to have our faith strengthened and strengthen the faith of others. We plan to serve others as Christ served us. Our desire is to always be compassionate, caring, and a presence of Christ for others. With all those things mentioned, this is what will be needed for us to be successful. Every one of us must expect to be involved in the ministries of our church. Every one of us needs to be willing to share our gifts and talents in service to Christ through our church (and please, volunteer without waiting to be asked). Let us extend our friendliness and family atmosphere to everyone we encounter. Let us issue invitations to simply come, visit, and be a part of just one service or activity. Let us not be afraid to use the name of Jesus in our everyday conversations with others. And could we all make certain we share our needs, our concerns, our hurts, and our successes with each other. As family, just as we can grieve with each other, we can celebrate with each other as well.

It’s true – we’re not prophets but we are faithful followers of Christ. We are entering our 280th year of ministry as a church. As previous generations have done, let us bow our heads in thankfulness and prayer for what we have done in the past, and what we will do in the days ahead.

I pray for us to have a blessed New Year that confirms how God is present even in difficult times. I pray we have a Happy New Year lived in the spirit of Christ our Lord.

Pastor Butler +