Strong start, strong finish
Will you indulge me as I take one last backward glance at 2021? I know—many of you would rather leave that year firmly in the rearview mirror. But 2021 brought a lot of blessings to Chapel Hill and the last two weeks felt like God’s huge exclamation mark on those blessings! Let’s review:
• GLOW, our annual “invite-a-family” Christmas celebration welcomed 750 “kids” of all ages into our sanctuary for a joyous and colorful celebration of the birth of Jesus. You did a great job inviting your un-churched neighbors to join you and Pastor Ellis’s scary story about bats and cave spiders was a vivid illustration of how desperately we need the light of Jesus in a frighteningly dark world.
• Our Christmas Eve (and Eve Eve) celebrations hosted 2,502 in-person worshipers, 779 more than last year! At least 20 raised their hands to indicate that they had invited Jesus—Immanuel—to come into their hearts and lives.
• Our “Snow Sunday” on December 26 reminded us how far we have come in the last two years! In the past, if we canceled because of weather, too bad! It was a week without church. Now, because of all we’ve learned as a result of COVID, we were able to pivot immediately and offer our services on-line—with hardly a hiccup! (Mega-kudos, however, to you 30 stalwart souls who showed up anyhow! Pioneer spirit at play!)
• Week by week, we continue to see more and more of our flock returning home—and we have welcomed an astounding number of new people into our church family. Some, perhaps, for a season. Others, for good. Regardless, as always, Chapel Hill is here, ready and waiting to serve our community and region.
• We closed out December giving 20% above our budgeted income—and frankly, we thought the budget number was aggressive. Your elders and pastors continue to be overwhelmed by your faithful, generous support. And perhaps the reason for that support was summed up by the words of one man, fairly new to our church. He said, “I’ve been a part of a lot of churches who raised money to pay off debt. But I’ve never been in a church that turned around and gave that savings away. Your ‘Beyond These Walls’ initiative is inspiring.”
Isn’t it? Which is a perfect transition to 2022. This will be the first full year that we will be able to invest the entirety of our mortgage savings—$580,000 per year—in ministries and programs beyond our walls. Last Sunday was a prime example. We celebrated the launch of Chapel Hill Port Orchard as we dismissed both Pastors Larry and Megan to give their full attention to our daughter church. To see our stage full of those who have committed themselves to this new work—wasn’t it exciting?
And that’s just a start. I’ll go out on a limb here: I think 2022 is going to be an epic year for Chapel Hill. I believe we are going to beat back this pandemic, going to continue to draw our sheep back into the fold, going to welcome more and more new families, and going to find many more ways to invest our bounty into serving, not just our community, but beyond our walls—as never before. You can quote me: 2022 is going to be GREAT! I hope you are as excited about our future as I am.
Senior Pastor Mark Toone
Chapel Hill Gig Harbor
Photo by Pavl Polo on Unsplash