Good morning…

I have some news to share with you from Session.  The Annual General Meetings on February 22nd for the budget presentation and February 26th for the full meeting are fast approaching. All committee and group reports are due very soon for the Annual Report. With this in mind, Session has been occupied with two considerations for the AGM.
2016 was a game-changing year at Session. Your Session sat 11 times in 2016 and at each meeting, the budget was front and centre. Last year a motion was passed that; Session would establish sustainable financing for St Andrews’ and that in association; we would resolve why the attendance at worship was changing.
Today I bring news that when you attend the AGM this year you will see the fruits of a lot of work.
On the budget and sustainable financing, Session will unveil the good news of what happened in 2016 and the plans for 2017. Many of you would like the news today but I’m going to ask you come to the AGM and celebrate the results achieved. It is our hope that many of you will appreciate how difficult it is to turn things around and especially quickly. 13 Elders and untold others crunched the problem for you.
On the second front, why are people not coming to church has been the subject of most Session meetings? I typed “why is church attendance declining” into GOOGLE and got 198,000 results. Here are some of the things people are saying about declining membership:
·       10 reasons why members are not coming to church
·       7 or 9 or 10 key reasons your church attendance is declining
·       How can you revitalize your church
·       How declining attendance effects worship.
There are many reasons, some global, some local that effect attendance.  Picking one is just not possible. A list of 10 possible reasons can be found on my blog – accessible through the St Andrews webpage if you are interested.
I’d like to share with you a comment from Session that has grown to reflect how Session has struggled with this issue.
To quote an Elder at Session in December 2016 –We know that the Presbyterian Church of Canada is struggling to keep members, just as most organized churches in North America are.  This does not mean St. Andrews’ Hespeler has to follow this pattern. We have choices.”   
Today I’d like to advance Sessions plan that will reverse declining attendance here in Hespeler.
Late in 2016 Session reviewed a book recommended by Joni Smith – called “Beyond the Worship Wars; Building Vital and Faithful Worship” by Thomas G. Long.  Session decided that all of sitting Elders will read and discuss the ideas presented. Session will cherry pick the most salient ideas and implement them, with care that they fit into our missions and ideals. Secondly, Session is suggesting that the Congregation read this book for insight into the challenges and opportunities this represents.
In late 2016 Session met with Corey, our Music Director as she presented a program called “Blended Music at St. Andrews”.  This methodology is not new or even new to St. Andrews. Originally Rev. Linda Ashfield discovered that this systematic way to make worship “flow” led a deeper spiritual experience. In selecting Corey Linford Cotter as a Music Director we also hired a protégé of Rev. Ashfield.  The significance of theses connections to St. Andrews has allowed Corey to find a kind of consensus to music selection.  
Secondly, on January 21 Session held a special meeting that created a blueprint for change that is crafted specifically for us. The workshop, Moderated by Rev. McAndless looked at broad topics like; Re-engaging or Revitalization, Outreach – within St Andrews, Communication method changes, Christian Education must-haves, Worship Space and Worship Format including the way the front of the church looks and works during service, Care as in care for the members, plans for Elder/Deacon teams as well as other ideas like parking.
Out of this mix Elders found trends and common themes that reoccurred throughout. Communication was a thread that reappeared constantly – build a conduit that delivers what is happening and why seems obvious. The details of reaching all the congregation are difficult to pin down, though. Also common was the idea of creating a path forward that includes the opinions and voices of the church in building us up. Engagement, the flow of service and praise for meaningful worship are also key elements to foster.
This plan was intentionally created by Session to meet the expectations we heard from the congregation in early 2016 and feedback throughout the year. It is our fervent hope that with these plans and your help and input we can create significant change on a local level. To co-opt a phrase we are working locally to create global change.
This plans successes are only limited by the enthusiasm we provide and the understanding that everyone’s help and opinions are needed to make this church the one you want to attend. In doing so we create a church everyone wants to attend.
Please consider going to the Annual General Meeting and share in fellowship as we engage the future.