St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church

State of the Church Report

November 21, 2016

 

St. Matthew’s is a welcoming community, nurturing and serving God’s children so that all may find meaning and purpose through Jesus Christ.  During 2016 the congregation has benefited from continuity in the professional and laity staff positions.  Through the leadership of Neil Hough as Senior Pastor and Grace Han and Bill Moberly as Associate Pastors, the members of the congregation have grown spiritually during the past year and deepened our commitment to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ.   The current staff at St. Matthew’s is an excellent fit with the spiritual needs of our congregation and with our priorities for serving our community.   The modern worship service offered on Sundays at 9:45 A.M continues to grow and is offered between two more traditional services.   The modern worship team continues to be led by Abby Madden, a very talented, inspired and dedicated graduate of Wesley Seminary.  We are very excited with the direction that Abby is taking this service under the guidance of our pastors and look forward to seeing how God will use this service in the coming years to attract more worshipers to our church.  Other worship and growth opportunities have included special efforts during Advent and Lent which offered church-wide study, special classes and  Wednesday evening prayer services which were well attended.  In past year, the church continued posting audio recordings of a weekly worship service on the church’s website and is now evaluating expanding this service to include live-streamed video.  These recordings are available for streaming to those unable to attend worship for various reasons. Lastly, St. Matthews has encouraged the congregation to grow deeper in faith through adult, youth, and children’s discipleship programs.  We believe God has blessed these efforts and our congregation is growing spiritually and that He has used our efforts to reach our community with the good news of Jesus Christ.

During 2016, the worship attendance at the three services held at St. Matthew’s is averaging 391 (through November 13).   Additionally, 38 new members were added to the congregation during the year, including 15 by profession of faith.  St. Matthew’s continues to draw new people to its congregation through worship that proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We also believe that people are drawn to St. Matthew’s especially due to our ministries for children and youth, as well as through a wide variety of music programs, the modern worship service, and because of the many opportunities we offer to engage our members and attendees in mission to those in need.   So far in 2016, the new members who have joined St. Matthew’s have included 10 new members who transferred from other UMC churches, 13 who transferred from non-UMC churches, 13 confirmands who joined by profession of faith, and 2 adults who joined by profession of faith.  Twenty-one of these new members are female and 17 are male.

The St. Matthew’s leadership held a retreat early in the year with several Church Council meetings dedicated to follow-up on the work done in the retreat. Through this process the leadership sought to discern God’s leading for St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church. This resulted in setting some priorities for the church and affirmation of goals for 2016.  The Church Council renewed its commitment to serve at-risk children and senior adults in need.  These goals were established several years ago and we believe they continue to represent the demographic needs of our community and congregation. Specific strategies to support these goals are reflected in the activities reported by each of St. Matthew’s committees and circles.  This work also laid the groundwork for the Church Council decision to embrace the District Superintendent’s invitation to embark on the Next Level Innovations Initiative (NLI.)  The Church Council engaged in thirty days of prayerful discernment prior to making a nearly unanimous decision to engage in NLI.  NLI is a significant commitment by the church over the next three years to identify and pursue five innovations that will prepare St. Matthew’s to meet the future needs of our community and congregation and to better pursue our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

St. Matthew’s has initiated or deepened numerous initiatives that focus on community outreach in 2016.  Many of these efforts are described in the committee efforts following in this report.  Of special note is the strong and fruitful partnership with Weyanoke Elementary School.  A large percentage of students attending this school are disadvantaged and are at-risk in many ways, including food insecurity and academic challenges.  As seen following in this report, St. Matthew’s has attempted to support these children and their families in a wide variety of ways.  St. Matthew’s teams have also served youth residing in the local juvenile detention center by facilitating Boy Scout and Venture Scout programs that have been very popular with these youths.  Also, of special note the church has reached out to our neighborhoods by offering a community health fair and sponsoring several “pub theology” events designed to reach those who might not initially connect with the church through tradition worship services.  Lastly, a team of church members have continued outreach to individuals incarcerated in state correctional centers through the Kairos Prison Ministry.

We have experienced God’s leading in 2016, and believe he has used St. Matthew’s to make a difference in our congregation and world.  Following are some of the goals and outcomes of the various committees that have been achieved through God’s power during the past year.

 

Youth Ministries

St. Matthew’s UMYF over the last year has experienced much challenge and much growth in the face of ever-evolving youth and family culture in the Fairfax area. The youth ministry has seen numbers swell from 2015 to 2016. This is due to a number of factors such as a large incoming class of active 7th grade youth and families, and a massive influx of military and government personnel that have moved into the community. But the most significant of these factors certainly are the committed and energetic youth counselor volunteers who graciously give of their Sunday evenings to making the UMYF program a success. Since the youth fall kick-off we have consistently seen attendance average between 35-45 every Sunday.

UMYF has maintained and strengthened a culture of missional evangelism through the offering of unique and engaging projects throughout the year and over the course of summer months. St. Matthew’s youth consistently sent groups of kids once a month from September to March to Eddie’s club, non-profit recreation club for kids and teens with special needs. Entering into our 33rd year of committed service to the Appalachia Service Project, and in keeping with the tradition of intergenerational mission outreach the youth ministry sent over 50 adults, youth, and college-aged participants to Cocke County, Tennessee to work with families in the area on home repair projects. Likewise, the youth ministry sent 16 junior higher and adult volunteers to Winchester County to do home repair work with the Jeremiah Project.

In response to the growing need of a more intentional and more relational youth ministry, the UMYF created a small group initiative to build more intimate relationships between youth and adult volunteer counselors. We’ve found that our youth ministry is most effective when they know and feel that there are adults in the church that care deeply about them and actively seek to engage them on a daily basis, not just once a week. The hope for this initiative is to bring smaller groups of youth into more comfortable settings like homes of youth families to break bread, fellowship with each other, and grow deeper in their relationship to both God and one another.

The UMYF and St. Matthew’s also participated in several fellowship activities throughout the school year, the most notable activities are the bi-district bowling lock-in, apple picking, game show night, Pokemon Go night, and zombie night. All of these activities are not only meant to be fun and engaging, but they are meant to also be generative and conducive to spiritual formation as well.

Under the continued committed leadership of lead counselors Bev Lowe, Chris Jackson, and Ken Snyder, the St. Matthew’s UMYF certainly has a lot to look forward to in the upcoming year and beyond. As we prayerfully seek the vision of God for St. Matthew’s youth, we are continually looking toward and setting realistically attainable goals for our ministry. These include: stronger parental relationships and involvement in the youth ministry, programs and activities that can engage both youth and parents in topics that they are wrestling with, inclusion of an international mission trip in addition to the two mission trips across the summer months, improving relationship and connection to graduating students after they leave for college.

Missions

In 2016 Global Mission & Community Outreach committee held Spring and Fall Service Days. The Fall Service Day consisted of raising money and packaging meals for Stop Hunger Now. On the service day, volunteers donated their time and packaged 30,000 meals. The meals later shipped out through Stop Hunger Now, and were distributed to residents and students of Haiti.

The Mission Committee was also involved in the Weyanoke Elementary book fair. The church was able to raise $2,168, which assisted in purchasing books for children. Members of the committee also volunteered at the book fair.

Coming up is the 2016 Advent Offering as well as the Alternative Giving Market. The Alternative Giving Market will allow participants the opportunity to help Nothing But Nets, the Joy Fund, and/or sponsor at risk children in Roanoke, Virginia, who are assisted by United Methodist missionary Becky Parsons, to participate in a field trip to Washington D.C..

Weekday School

St. Matthew’s continued its outreach to preschool children and families by providing a weekday school. Currently we have 97 students and a staff of 18. The 2015-2016 school year has been a good year with several notable accomplishments.

  • Completion of the revised/updated Parent Handbook
  • Established new guidelines and polies for clergy/staff tuition discounts
  • Established a Scholarship Fund with the Endowment Committee
  • Created a new school web page (now linked to the church) and new emails for all of the WDS staff
  • Completed a facelift to the playground that included weeding, mulch and new swing seats
  • For the second year, we offered a two-week summer camp option which was very well attended. Attendance increased from 40 campers per week to 52 campers per week. There was also an increase in the number of campers from the community, 5 this year compared to only 1 our first year.

Through the Weekday School Board, the relationship between the church and the weekday school has continued to develop and deepen. Through these efforts the weekday school has become more closely integrated with the ministries of the church, especially the Children’s Ministries. Through the promotion of and participation in events such as VBS, the Fall Harvest, Parent’s Night Out, and the Easter Egg Hunt, as well as weekly Chapel for all classes led by pastors and Weekday School and Church staff, many families have come to know St. Matthew’s. As a result, there has recently been a number of new St. Matthew’s members who were first introduced to the church through the weekday school.

Welcoming and Evangelism

The Welcoming and Evangelism Committee continued its dual ministry of engagement with potential new members and outreach in the community.

Pew Pads replaced the “Connection Card” in 2016, resulting in an increase the number of names gathered. We sent out at least 76 Starbucks gift cards to first time families; a total of 66 repeat visitors attended services since the beginning of the year.  Grace Notes ministry writes personal notes of welcome and outreach to people new to St. Matthew’s.  T-shirts and a tent branded with the church logo are available to all St. Matthew’s groups to wear at community events such as the Pink Elephant Sale and the Community Health Fair.

Welcoming activities included a bi-monthly “Lunch with the Pastors” program. The Committee works to facilitate the integration of new members into the life of the church through support of the Disciple’s Path class led by Pastor Grace Han.

Lynne Studeman, our Director of Welcoming Ministries completed a successful three-year tenure of outstanding guidance and support to the church.  Joanna Boyles hit the ground running in September and this ministry’s activities are stronger than ever.

Trustees

The Board of Trustees mission is to care for all church property and to maintain it in efficient operating order and attractive appearance, to include property and equipment acquired by any commission, committee, society or class within the church.

The Trustees accomplished a number of objectives for 2016, which were:

  • To accomplish those parts of the Capital Improvement Plan for which funds remain;
  • Replace the HVAC unit in the Adult Wing which was beyond its life cycle expectancy;
  • Replace rotted doors to the Courtyard, also a life cycle matter;
  • To repair or replace those items of equipment that may have failed or been in need or periodic maintenance;
  • Replaced computer boards that run the organ;
  • Repaired computer boards in organ that were damaged by power surge. Also installed surge suppressors;
  • Arranged for consolidation of telephones with Week Day School to reach a saving of $300 per month; Finalized permission from the Commonwealth to license the red van as a salvage vehicle with liability insurance but not collision;
  • Replace damaged dishwasher in Parsonage and repaired damaged floor beneath it. Remainder of floor to be repaired at time convenient to the Hough’s;
  • Coordinated with Fire Marshal on requirements for Hypothermia Week and participated in fire marshal inspections;
  • Coordinated with Hypothermia Committee on building use, facilities to be used and security practices.

United Methodist Women

St. Matthew’s has 4 very active circles: Deborah-Mary, Elizabeth, Esther, and Priscilla. We assisted with celebrations of life, hypothermia week, Disciples’ Path and various mission projects throughout the year.  UMW sponsored a women’s Christmas brunch with over 90 attendees enjoying a delicious meal and a concern from the St. Matthew’s Brothers.  In 2016 the installation of officers included the following: President: Karen Cogan, Vice- President: Barb Tuceling, Secretary: Judy Zeiler, Treasurer: Louise Moore.  April 3 was designated as UMW Sunday with guest speaker Karen Booker from Alexandria District.  During UMW Sunday, six individuals were recognized with recognition pins: Louise Moore, Bev Goree, Ken Landers, Randy Jones, Virginia Mears and Mary Rose Burke.  In March, UMW hosted the Alexandria District mini-school of Christian Mission. It was well attended by many from around the district and was very successful.  The social action chair, Sandy Ehrenberg, along with the mission committee organized a fundraiser for the Weyanoke Book Fair in May. With the funds raised, each child at Weyanoke was able to pick out 2 books for their very own.  UMW also provided volunteers for the book fair.

In September, UMW hosted a welcome back tea attend by over 80 women.  The guest speaker was Julie Tumasz, who grew up in our church and spent time in Macedonia and Miramar.   UMW also sponsored a fall retreat at Hallowood, which was attended by almost 25 women and led by Lisa Nelson in a weekend of hope and faith.  The UMW annual November craft fair is expected to be a great success.  All money earned during this event will be split among several projects: Rising Hope, Weekday School playground, Joy Fund, the SMUMC Venture Scouts, All God’s children, Ferrum College, ASP/JP, Michelo Project and UMCOR.

United Methodist Men

A key goal for the United Methodist Men is to fund projects at SMUMC through their Christmas Tree Sales fund raiser. Projects supported in 2016 include the Michelo Swaziland project, ASP and JSP, an Eagle scout project and we support the Boy Scout Troop 260 and the Venture Scouts. The UMM provides dinners featuring angus burgers and salmon burgers for Hypothermia week, Fall kick off and Picnic on the lawn. The UMM also has a number of Saturday meetings that include a delicious breakfast, an interesting speaker and a time of fellowship.

Finance Committee

The purpose of the Finance Committee is to, in collaboration with the Treasurer, prepare the annual budget with information from the Stewardship Campaign, input from church committees, commissions, staff, and data from previous years. The committee also monitors budget execution and makes financial reports and recommendations to the Church Council.

From a financial perspective 2016 has been a challenging year. Both the number of pledges and the total amount pledged continued to decline. On the positive side the amount of the average pledge increased, and fulfillment rate for pledges is higher than prior years. Our 2016 budget is $1,143,630, and we are optimistic that we will meet our revenue goal.

Facilities, personnel, and apportionment consume over eighty percent of our budget. Our “new” sanctuary is now over twenty years old, and we are facing the inevitable costs associated with repairing, updating, and replacing our facilities. As a result we have difficulty fully funding our important programs, outreach goals, and mission activities.

This year we initiated a program to better inform members about how we are using church resources by providing testimonials about outcomes and activities impacting both our church community and the broader world community. These reports have been very well-received and will be continued.

We have modified the budget development process to be more inclusive, provide greater transparency, and result in earlier approval. Recognizing that many younger members use technology in managing their finances, we are working to provide more electronic giving options to make it easier for them to contribute.

Staff-Parish Relations

Neil Hough as Senior Pastor, with Grace Han and Bill Moberly as Associate Pastors, are working with the congregation to reach out to the community, helping visitors and new members start their path to discipleship and guiding members on their journey to discipleship.  Neil Hough has taken on a greater leadership role within the District helping individuals across the district discern their call to ministry as well as serving as the point person for the Church in Next Level Innovations, raising the profile of SMUMC in the District and community.  Grace Han continues on her path to ordination and is leading efforts to help visitors and new members start on their paths to discipleship by leading classes and small groups.  Bill Moberly, with his role guiding visitation and ministries to seniors in our community, continues to lead ministries outside our walls to the Aarondale Assisted Living Community, providing the Good News and healing of Christ to this senior community.

The current staff of St. Matthew’s are each very accomplished in their own right, with several seminary-trained staff members leading our ministries and others with advanced degrees each providing their unique gifts to enhance our worship, ministries, and missions.  Our modern worship service continues to be our fastest growing service under Abby Madden’s innovative and talented leadership.  Her separate role as assistant to Nancy Cappel has allowed greater collaboration between Modern Worship and the entire Music Program that amplifies the entire ministry.  We have experienced seamless transitions in our Communications Director, Welcoming Ministries Director, and Weekday School Business Director positions.  Our new staff members have maintained the energy and enthusiasm in these positions to continue our focus on communicating, reaching out, and welcoming members of our community, particularly children and their families.  Many of our staff have become members of St. Matthew’s or were members before joining the Church staff, exemplifying their commitment to our ministries and their spiritual connection to our church.

Worship

The worship committee will continue to provide support to the staff to enhance worship services for the congregation.  In 2016 ushers were provided from a pool of 50, and acolytes from a pool of 15. The Altar Guild currently has 15 people who take care of the altar and chancel area and decorate the church appropriate to the season.   Coordination was provided for 2 weddings and 7 funerals.  Communion elements were provided the first Sunday of each month and on Christmas Eve and during Easter week.  Celebration of Life support was provided for each of the 7 funerals.  We provided a “Wednesday on the Lawn” meal for about 80 people, a “new members” meal for about 10 people, and arranged for a Christmas Eve hospitality room with substantial food for the staff and volunteers.  We put up the Chrismon tree, and sold Chrismons and Easter flowers for members to honor and memorialize loved ones and decorate the sanctuary.

2017 looks to be a continuation of our 2016 efforts.  We have increased the number of funeral coordinators from one to five to lessen the burden on one person and ensure that a coordinator will be available, and hope to increase the number of members on the Altar Guild.

Music

St. Matthew’s has continued its tradition of a robust music program in 2016.  This has included numerous choirs and bell choirs for adults, youth and children.  These choirs routinely lead worship in each of St. Matthew’s worship services, as well as leading special and seasonal services such as a youth musical, and a Christmas cantata.  The music program provides outreach to the community through numerous special performances, tours outside the church.

The music program at St. Matthew’s continues to be directed by Nancy Cappel, with the staff support of Abby Madden, and Carol Workman.  The handbell choirs present concerts at five different retirement/nursing homes during the year.  Our 5–10 day Youth Music Tour took us to 4 or 5 churches out of the Washington, DC area to present concerts. This tour gave the teen get a taste of small churches, cathedral like churches and many denominations other than Methodist.  The ringers stay in church members’ homes giving them another opportunity to share with people in a different part of the country.

Children’s Ministries

The mission of St. Matthew’s Children’s Ministry is:  To nurture children in their faith in Christ by

  • Providing meaningful opportunities for children and their families to grow in their faith, their relationship to one another, and to our church
  • Empowering children to share their faith in their daily lives of love and service to others
  • Bringing Christ’s love and the love of St. Matthew’s to children in need

Our Children’s Ministry continues to be led by Carrie Schwab, another seminary-trained staff member of our church who has developed a strong and dynamic program. Currently there are 186 children enrolled in our weekly Christian Education programs. Our weekly programs for children include Sunday school, Children’s Worship, Faith Enrichment, and our Nursery. These programs are led by a team of 60 adult and teen volunteers. In addition to our weekly programs, Children’s Council has been working to offer outreach and family ministry events throughout the year. This year’s outreach events include programs such as Parent’s Night Out, the Easter Egg Hunt, Fall Kick Off, the Fall Harvest Party, Vacation Bible School, and our Family Christmas Eve Service. These events have been a great way for families in our Weekday School to get to know St. Matthew’s and participate in our ministries. More than 750 children and their families from the community have participated in these programs throughout the course of the year. Our events for families were a Grandparent Ice-cream Social, a Mother’s Day Luncheon, and Father’s Day Kickball. In addition to our outreach and family events, our children did a fantastic job of planning, preparing, and leading worship for our annual Children’s Sabbath. Children participated by creating artwork, creating a special video, singing, ushering, and reading in worship.

Our children have been leaders in mission this year. They have taken on 3 separate mission projects. During Lent the children raised $844.41 to support the work of St. Matthew’s Missionary Clara Biswas in Cambodia. At Vacation Bible School our children gave $564.25 to support United Methodist Volunteers in Mission to help reconstruct homes in VA damages by storms. In the fall our children partnered with St. Matthew’s Missionary Rebecca Parsons and her ministry at the Community Outreach Center in Roanoke. Through this partnership our children became pen pals with at risk children in Rebecca’s program. Our children not only provided a Christmas gift for each child in the program, but they are also helping to sponsor a trip to Washington DC for all of the kids in the Outreach Program in the spring.

Summary

As evidenced by the numerous outcomes, God has been working in and through St. Matthew’s during the past year.  It is estimated that God has used St. Matthew’s to impact more than 37,000 lives through the mission, outreach, and ministry activities of the church. In the coming years, it is our earnest prayer that God will continue to bless the work of St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church as we seek to proclaim the Gospel and be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.   We recognize the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of those in our community and world.   We strive to discern God’s will in how best to respond to those needs and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in Annandale, Virginia.   With God’s help, St. Matthew’s will be a welcoming community, nurturing and serving God’s children so that all may find meaning and purpose through Jesus Christ.

Senior Pastor Neil Hough’s Report

Discerning God’s will has been a primary theme for the past twelve months.  Entering my third year as St. Matthew’s senior pastor, I believed that discerning God’s vision for my own ministry and for the church was a priority. With Reverend Jay Hanke’s guidance, I led a planning and visioning event for staff and Church Council in early February. We spent the day studying Scripture together, considering the mission of the church, and beginning to envision the direction in which we believe God is leading us. At the end of the day, we had not finished our discussion and agreed to continue discerning God’s will in monthly Church Council meetings.

Our collective discernment process continued in May, when St. Matthew’s was invited to participate in the Alexandria and Arlington Districts’ Next Level Innovation (NLI) program. We spent the next three months in conversation about this invitation and ultimately discerned that God was leading us to accept the invitation and participate in the program.

NLI Clergy peer group meetings started in September and topics discussed to-date include prayer, managing change, and vision alignment. The assigned reading and conversations have challenged me to continue discerning God’s leadership in the congregation and the changes that God is leading us to make. The reading and conversation has also challenged me to be more intentional about prayerful listening and personal discernment about my own pastoral ministry and congregational leadership. My prayer and my goal is that St. Matthew’s Church will make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by inviting people to worship, grow in faith, serve Christ, share their faith, and give generously.

There have been a number of personal highlights in the past year of ministry. Anne and I were blessed by the opportunity to help with the Weyanoke Elementary School book fair. In early July, I served as one of the group leaders for St. Matthew’s Appalachia Service Project college team. I had a wonderful week with an amazing group of young men and women. I have also enjoyed participating in programs for children and youth on Monday afternoons and at other times throughout the year.

I’ve been blessed to witness the many ways St. Matthew’s Church is growing in faith. The church staff and lay leadership have been intentional about leading the congregation to grow in faith through ongoing discipleship programs for all ages, Disciple Bible Study, newcomers classes, special worship services and events, short-term studies (often connected to sermon series), a church-wide study (during Lent), and weekly gatherings for prayer.

I’ve also been blessed to witness the ways St. Matthew’s Church has taken steps to increase its presence in the Fairfax-Annandale community and reach out to its neighbors. In the past year, the church has strengthened its partnership with Weyanoke Elementary School by sponsoring the school’s spring book fair – making sure that every student at the school was able to take home two books of their own. In addition to collecting backpacks and school supplies for the school, the church also provided two beds for students in need. The community health fair and the document shredding/electronics-recycling event offered important services to our neighbors. Weekly communion services at Aarondale Retirement Community and the recently started Pub Theology ministry are taking the church into the community.

As I look toward the future, I believe discernment will continue to be a primary theme. The NLI program will challenge St. Matthew’s Church to look at itself honestly and discern God’s preferred future for the mission and ministry of the congregation.

My prayer is that the pastors, staff, lay leadership, and church family will experience vision alignment and use the mission of the church as a guide for decision-making; that growth in church ministries will lead to growth in the five Vital Congregations statistics – especially worship attendance and adult professions of faith; that 100% of apportionments will be paid; that the number of lives impacted by church ministries will increase; that the church’s attention will increasingly be focused on its community; and that church leaders will continue to make adaptive changes that will help the church to connect with and serve future generations and those who are currently unchurched.

Personally, I will be continuing to discern God’s will for my life. I will be seeking a clearer sense of God’s vision for the church and a clearer sense of the changes God wants to make in me. I am praying that God will continue to transform my life so that I can participate in God’s answers to the prayers (goals) I listed in the previous paragraph. I believe that God is challenging me to ask better questions and use questions more effectively as a leadership tool in conversations and meetings. I believe God is challenging me to increase the impact of sermons and worship services on individual lives of long-time disciples, seekers, and persons who are new to Christian faith. I also believe that God is leading me to deepen my own faith through worship, continued learning and growth in leadership and discipleship, hands-on service, tithing, and sharing faith through written and spoken word.

In addition to serving as the senior pastor of St. Matthew’s UMC, I also serve as the Chair of the Alexandria District Committee on Ordained Ministry.

I am grateful for the continued opportunity to work side-by-side in ministry with my wife Reverend Anne Hough. Her support and encouragement is a blessing to me and to the church.

Neil R. Hough

Senior Pastor

Associate Pastor Grace Han’s Report

In the last year, we have focused on identifying a more systematic approach to discipleship, starting with newcomers. Last fall, I offered a discipleship class for newcomers called “The Path.” This was short-term discipleship class geared toward newcomers at our church. The class had a strong emphasis on hospitality. Each week a member of our church offered a homemade meal for our class and we provided childcare. The goal of the class was less on membership and more on encouraging on-going discipleship. “The Path” was so successful that we offered it three times last year, and we just completed a fourth session this fall. Offering the class on a regular basis has provided a natural “next step” for newcomers in their path towards discipleship. In the past year, over 43 adults participated in the class, a little more than half went on to join another small group study or discipleship class. My hope is to be intentional about following up with newcomers through their first year of participation at St. Matthew’s and to bridge the gap between members and disciples.

Another shift we made in discipleship was to offer short term studies as well church-wide studies, in addition to established Sunday School classes and small groups. We found that having natural starting and ending points for small groups allowed people who were not already plugged into a small group to try out a class. We also found that short term studies were more attractive for our busy congregation. Last Lent, we offered a church-wide study that complemented the sermon series on the gospel of John. I coordinated with teachers so that we could offer the class over a variety of times and dates. We had over 10 classes (including 3 new classes) that met for regular study. Over the summer, we offered a study on the book of Jeremiah to accompany the sermon series on Jeremiah which was also met with great success. To encourage our congregation to grow in spiritual disciplines, we meet weekly on Friday mornings at 6:30 AM for morning prayer. This group, small but mighty, are the prayer warriors at our church. In addition to our weekly prayer group, last Advent, we added a prayer service on Wednesday evenings from 7-7:30PM. Due to the success of this service, we decided to keep meeting through the new year, and the prayer service continued through the season of Lent. For many that could not make it out on Friday mornings, this prayer service offered a moment of respite, preparation, and stillness. As we prepare for Advent this year, we will offer the Advent prayer service again this year. In the area of missions, we have strengthened a partnership with Weyanoke Elementary School. While we have been worked on and off with Weyanoke Elementary school throughout the years, this year was unique as we brought the partnership to the forefront of our missional life. Last Spring, we hosted the book fair at Weyanoke Elementary School, raising enough money so that each student could get two free books. Because of our families at Weyanoke Elementary school live below the poverty line, the PTA could not afford to put on the book fair. In addition to our financial donation, we volunteered at the book fair throughout the week. Several volunteers went on to become regular volunteers at the school! This fall, we met with the new principal of the school, and affirmed our commitment to support and encourage Weyanoke Elementary School. We hope that in addition to our financial support, we can encourage Weyanoke Elementary School. We hope that in addition to our financial support, we can encourage more relational building missions. This winter, we will devote a portion of our Advent Offering to support the technology upgrades to the school.

We also hosted a fall service day when we packed 30,000 meals through our partnership with Stop Hunger Now. We were overwhelmed with the generosity of our congregation, who raised $4000 in just a few weeks to meet our $8700 fundraising goal! In addition, we had over 200 people volunteer, including many children. We were so proud that our children were participating in feeding hungry people around the world. Our meals were sent to the Haiti as part of the Salesian Mission “Hunger for Education” project to improve food security among vulnerable students in Haiti.

In congregation care, we continue to provide care and support to our congregation,. I work closely with the other pastors of the church to provide weekly care for people in crisis, those who are sick or hospitalized, our homebound members, and those who are grieving. This fall, in response to several difficult deaths in our church congregation, we began a Coping with Grief small group, led by Rev. Judy Hall, a pastoral counselor. We named that many in our congregation experience loss, but beyond the moment of crisis, we as a church don’t offer much to provide on-going support. We offered this small group to all in our church who had lost someone in the last year. In addition, we begin a prayer and card writing ministry. Each month, a group of Congregational Care Ministers gather to write hand written cards to different groups of people in our church, including those who are sick, people who have lost loved ones, and congregation members that have been missing from church for extended periods of time. As I enter my third year as a provisional member, I have been working this fall to apply for full membership in the Virginia Conference. Understanding the time commitment needed for this process and the importance of taking this process seriously, I have worked hard to try to plan ahead as much as possible. As a result, I was able to work with my senior pastor to integrate my teaching requirement (Jeremiah) as part of our summer sermon series. I was able to teach a class on Jeremiah that complemented a sermon series on the book of Jeremiah. Having the study coincide with a sermon series allowed the entire congregation to study Jeremiah together, in fact, I had such a big turnout, we had to add an additional class! It also allowed the congregation to fully participate in my ordination process, a timely teaching opportunity. As part of my provisional process, I have met monthly with my Mentor-Covenant group for on-going mentoring, fellowship, and sharing in ministry and will participate in all the requisite retreats and educational forums.

I also represent our church as one of the Co-Presidents of the Alexandria District Clergy Association. In addition, I serve as a member of the 5 Talent Academy Leadership Team.

Grace Han, Associate Pastor

Associate Pastor of Senior Adult Ministries & Visitation Bill Moberly’s Report

2016 has been a busy year for me in ministry. Although I am not always visible leading worship each Sunday, I remain active during the week in one-on-one visitation activities and leading worship outside the walls of the church.

After establishing a Communion and Worship Service every Wednesday at Aarondale Assisted Living in October of 2015, I continued to support this service throughout 2016. Several St. Matthews members have also supported these services over the past year. As part of this service, we sing, we pray, I give a commentary on a selected scripture verse; we share in Holy Communion and offer individual blessings and anointing. Over the course of the past 13 months, nearly 1000 Communion wafers have been served as part of this service. Attendance has grown to an average of 25 worshipers each week. Due to Aarondale policy changes in October of 2016, residents of the memory Unit were no longer allowed to attend the service outside of the Memory Unit Facility. In response to this, I began holding a second service after the regular 1 pm service inside the Memory Unit. With this change we were able to reach 6 to 7 additional residents who had not previously been part of our time together. In a similar manner I also support monthly worship and communion services at Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute as needed.

As part of my Pastoral responsibilities I conducted two wedding ceremonies and led or participated in numerous Funeral services this year. I also planned and led the Blessing of the Animals service in October that was attended by over 50 church members and neighborhood friends. I participated in several worship services over the year including the Children’s Christmas service and other seasonal worship services. I regularly support the 9:45 Worship Service serving Communion. I am known as the “Gluten Free Guy”. I am involved in the New Leadership Initiative and have attended learning events to help support this effort in the coming years. A significant part of my weekly activities involves visitation in the homes of church members and friends as well as in Hospital, rehab and institutional settings. I offer presence, comfort, prayers and communion during these visits.

I continued to coordinate and lead senior outreach activities including recording interviews of St. Matthews Veterans and hosting Senior Seminars. This spring we had speakers who presented on Senior care and living options. This fall we are hosting an “Antique Roadshow” to learn about the value of our treasured possessions so that those facing downsizing, relocation, or life changing events are better prepared to make informed decisions as they deal with their “Stuff”. I regularly post notifications of Senior events being held in the local community on our webpage. I am a regular contributor to the Monthly News Letter writing articles about events and activities I have been involved with over the year. As part of my ongoing educational efforts, I completed a Course of Study class on Congregational Care at Wesley Seminary, attended a seminar on the Many Forms of Dementia, participated in a monthly Clergy Mentoring Group,
was active in the District Clergy meetings and received AED Training.

In March, I completed a lifetime bucket list dream and published a book of encouraging Scripture paired with Nature Photographs that I have taken over the years. This book came about as a result of my own journey through the dark valley of depression and reflects the comfort, healing and uplifting power that I found in God’s word and in the beauty of God’s magnificent creation. My desire for this book is that it might be a comfort to someone else going through difficult times in their life. I have seen God’s Spirit at work through it as it has brought hope to some who have been struggling. I have used it in some of my visitations and plan on expanding its use as a resource to give as part of my visits when it might be appropriate. I look forward to another year at St. Matthews.

Peace, Bill Moberly