What a year it has been!

Dear Members and Friends of Abiding Presence,

What a year it has been at Abiding Presence! Looking back, it seems I say that every year around this time, but really... what a year it has been! The Holy Spirit is certainly stirring in our midst. I love seeing the growth of this past year in faith, ministry, worshipers and number of people who feel somehow connected to Abiding Presence.

One of our members recently shared with me their experience inviting a fellow mom to church. This mom replied to the invitation, saying, "My friends keep talking about going to things at Abiding Presence." That's exactly the kind of talk in the community about our ministry we have been working together to build these past several years.

As I look ahead to 2017, I am filled with excitement with what God is calling us to next. We will celebrate Abiding Presence's 40th anniversary and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Needless to say, we have a LOT to celebrate and there's going to be a big party involved. BUT, celebrating isn't all God is calling us to do.

Our church leadership and I are outlining an ambitious plan—put together through prayer, discernment and conversations— of what we believe God is calling us to do as we live out the final year of our "God's Place. Our Place. Your Place?" vision. In 2017 we will focus on "Your Place?" and how we will go about the work of Connecting People to Christ through Community. Again and again, we are seeing that connecting people to a community where they feel like they belong is the single most effective way for us to share God's love.

Central to this plan is calling an Associate Pastor to support our growing ministries. The Associate Pastor will be charged with, among other things, developing and leading a robust small group ministry, working with young adults, supporting our service ministry as they equip every member of the church to serve our neighbors in need and doing all of the usual pastoral duties of preaching, leading worship and providing pastoral care.

This ambitious plan comes with an equally ambitious budget. We are looking to increase our budget by $100,000, or just over $1,900 per week. Reaching this goal is going to take an intentional commitment from each and every one of us. As such, we've set a further goal of receiving 125 statements of intent with financial pledges towards the 2017 budget. The leadership is so excited about not only the plan, but also the goal of involving the whole congregation, they have come up with a $10,000 challenge gift if we meet the goal of 125 statements of intent. That's a lot of Wednesday night dinners or Sunday School curriculum books! So, let's work together on it!

Receiving statements of intent is critical because when we look at our giving in a systematic manner, we can do much more. Someone might say that they cannot make a $200 gift, but they can do $1 per day for the year ($365!). At the same time someone might say that they cannot increase their giving by $1,040 next year, but they could increase their giving $20 per week.

My husband, Ben, and I will be doing our part in submitting our statement of intent and increasing our personal giving. We hope you will join us in doing the same as a sign of your enthusiasm and gratitude for all God is doing in our lives, our church and our world.

Finally, as you look through the pages of this book I hope you will share in my joy for what it means for Abiding Presence to have embraced the theme "God's Place. Our Place. Your Place?" these past two years. As we enter into the final year of the three year vision we embarked on in the fall of 2014, I am more enthusiastic about ministry here than I have ever been (and that's saying something—because I've always been pretty enthusiastic!). Please join me in praying for and supporting our church, our community and for whatever God has in store for us for the next 40 years.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Meredith Lovell Keseley