Shepherd of the Valley held our Annual Meeting on January 31st, 2021. We will publish minutes and notes from the meeting after they are processed, but we had a request to share the highlights of Pastor Dave’s report to the congregation. Here are the notes.
1. It was a challenging year because of COVID-19. We’ve had to redefine ourselves and the meaning of church in many ways. We haven’t just lamented and waited for things to get better. We have engaged in meaningful ministries and taken stances for the good of our community. We have kept everyone employed at the full level they were before the pandemic and even added a staff member. We have kept ministries of visitation, music, preschool, and small group studies going. We have added a food pantry that serves people from our community every single day. Since March, we have posted an unbelievable 130 videos online. In the process we have not spread COVID-19 to a single person through church ministries. We also kept up every cent of benevolence towards local organizations, Camp Luther Heights, Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey in El Paso, and the synod. We have de-emphasized prodding our own members or new people we meet for offering donations, making sure that everyone has the resources they need to keep their households viable, trusting that people’s natural generosity will see us through.
In the process, we essentially broke even for the year financially, but the greater lesson was to let go of defining “success” by money and membership, instead looking at all the things above for a vision of who we are, and who we can yet become.
2. Enormous thanks go to SoV’s staff, all of whom have been flexible, helpful, proficient, and interrelated during these unprecedented times. Praise should also go to members of the church council, who have brought wisdom and cheer to an extremely stressful year. There’s no manual for what we’re doing. Compassion, grace, and mutual support are seeing us through.
3. We are planning to meet in an outdoor, masks-required service on Easter. Time and location are under discussion. We will hope to meet on an infrequent, but regular, basis after that throughout the summer, depending on the progress of COVID-19. We anticipate our members will receive vaccinations over the next few months and, when those are complete and widespread among us, we hope to be able to resume in-person worship.
We encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible. Health and safety are key to us being able to assemble ethically.
4. We are excited to announce the advent of a pilot project in congregational expression: Light of the Spirit Church, an online extension of Shepherd of the Valley. Light of the Spirit takes all the content we produce for our traditional members, places it on a dedicated website, and adds a forum for people to discuss as a virtual congregation. We hope that this new expression of church will open doors to greater participation not just at SoV, but for the church at large. We’ll keep you updated, but we expect most traditional SoV members will remain where they are, as they are. Light of the Spirit will happen alongside, in addition to, Shepherd of the Valley’s usual ministries.
5. Jim Girvan chaired a task force to prioritize projects suggested as uses for the proceeds from the sale of Properties A&B last year. The list will be published soon. No monies have yet been spent from these proceeds. We do not anticipate engaging in these improvements until we have returned to some measure of normalcy. Until then, the proceeds will be kept in emergency reserve. Before we allocate and spend the money on projects, we will put the list before the congregation for formal approval, likely at a semi-annual meeting. Some projects may happen before others, but we’ll keep the “to-do” list active.
6. One project is definitely going forward during this hiatus. Using memorial and other off-budget funds (not Property A&B), we are adding audio-visual capacity to the sanctuary. This project is necessary for a few reasons. First, it will allow overlapping efforts between in-person and online ministries instead of keeping them separate and creating twice the work for those engaging in them. Second, it will allow flexibility in sermon presentation and music, particularly if we still need to labor under COVID restrictions in the near future. Third, it will eliminate the need for bulletins, cutting our copying expenses nearly in half. This amounts to thousands of dollars a year in savings, discounting the project significantly.
This project will not impact the church much aesthetically other than the presence of the screens themselves. The plan is to extend the curved, wooden wall at the front of the sanctuary farther out on each side, then mount the front screens on them. Rear screens will hang on the rear wall. The only areas obscured by the additions will be white walls…spaces that are currently blank.
7. One project may be happening depending on feasibility. We need to look at the flooring in the sanctuary. Since we’re not having in-person services (and while we’re wiring under the floor for A/V anyway), this seems like a good time to address that issue. We are forming a small task force to look at flooring options. We already have one bid to re-floor. We’d like others, plus some idea of what materials to use. We are not guaranteed to re-floor at this time, but we want to explore the options. If you’d can help by serving on this limited-time, single-task task force, please let Pastor Dave know.