The 2006 Christmas season was a very tumultuous one for me. It was really the beginning of the end of my time in the Episcopal Church and my own future was very much uncertain at that point. I remember putting away my Christmas decorations early in January of 2007, and as I did, I wondered to myself what life would be like for me when I took those decorations back out in a year. Where would I be? What would I be doing? Would everything be different?
Ever since then it has been a private tradition of mine to wonder those things when putting away my decorations. It also allows me to be a bit reflective on what has occurred over the past year, to sit back and look at how God has worked, often in ways I never could have expected. As I look back on 2018 I just keep thinking, “Wow, what a ride it has been!”
Quite a bit has happened in the past year. When we rang in 2018 I was still in my first year as Rector of All Saints, and I felt like I was still learning the ropes and holding on for dear life. Along the way we have seen some wonderful things happen. We have brought in a number of new families which has increased our Sunday school program from one room to three and enabled us to have our very first Christmas Pageant.
Although winter weather took a bite out of attendance in January and February, we have seen our numbers grow steadily each month. We celebrated Fr. Nathaniel’s ordination to the priesthood in May and quickly started experiencing the fruit of his expanded ministry among us. We had our first ever All Saints Carnival in September, blessed our animals in October, celebrated the Feast of All Saints with a lively continental breakfast in November, and packed the nave for three services on Christmas Eve. Our worship has expanded, our ministries are growing, our membership is increasing, and our finances are stable. And thus we enter 2019 with some pretty amazing momentum.
As I thought about all of this, an image came to my mind. For years I was a competitive runner, and the thing I loved about running is that it was all about the effort. For the most part, the harder I worked, the faster I would go and the more successful I would be. Unfortunately many priests and pastors treat ministry in the same way. For them, it is all about how much effort they are putting forth. If things aren’t successful then they must not be working hard enough.
Since come to All Saints I have come to discover that ministry is really more like surfing. You see, surfing still requires things like skill and balance and strength, but none of that matters without the wave. Ultimately the job of the surfer is to submit to the wave, to go where it goes, to follow where it leads. It doesn’t matter how talented a surfer is, if he doesn’t get on the right wave he is going nowhere.
Over the past year I feel like we have been riding on the wave of the Holy Spirit. Sure, I’m using the gifts that God has given me, but I am trying as best I can to put all of those things in subjection to the Spirit, allowing him to lead us where he wants us to go as a congregation. In the coming year we will be developing a prayer group that will meet regularly, perhaps on Sundays after worship, and we will simply spend time praying for and discerning God’s will for our congregation. We can have all of the ideas in the world, but if we are not part of the Holy Spirit’s will for us then we will be like a surfer stranded on a waveless lake.
Where will we be a year from now? I have no idea, but I can’t wait to find out. So here is to surfing on the wave of the Holy Spirit in 2019. Enjoy the ride.
The Rev. Eric Zolner
Father Eric is a 3rd generation Anglican and the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Springfield, MO.