2020 is a year that, for most of us, will not be remembered fondly. Sure, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl in February, but it seemed like it was all downhill from there. We had a pandemic, civil unrest, and one of the most contentious elections that most of us can remember. As I reflect on this past year, I’m reminded of the book of Esther. This relatively short book in the Old Testament tells the story of a young Jewish woman in the 5th Century BC named Esther who becomes queen and saves the Jewish people from destruction at the hands of the evil Haman. One of the themes of the story is that God calls this ordinary woman during extraordinary times to do extraordinary things to save his people. One of my favorite verses comes from chapter 4, where Esther’s uncle Mordecai persuades her to help her people by telling her, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
This past year we have seen so many ordinary people step up and do extraordinary things for the life of our church. And while it is always difficult to give recognition to a few people for fear of leaving others out, I am going to nevertheless give it a shot in what I am calling “The 2020 Esther Awards.” The following people, listed in no particular order, have been selected for going above and beyond the call of duty in service to All Saints in 2020.
To say that we were unprepared to “go digital” in our worship this past year would be an understatement. In fact, it is something that I have historically resisted. However, when churches were forced to shut down in March we had no other choice. We limped along with my low resolution productions for a few months, and then we called in Jonathan. Starting in May, Jonathan took over our video production, but most people probably don’t realize what goes into the wonderful videos we’ve been providing for the past 6+ months. Each week Jonathan comes and sets up his own professional video equipment to record the Saturday afternoon service. He then spends hours editing the video together into a finished product before uploading it to our YouTube channel for people to watch on Sunday morning. Jonathan has also been instrumental in helping us to select a more permanent video streaming system which will be installed at the end of January. Thanks to Jonathan’s expertise and commitment many people in our congregation and beyond have been able to stay connected and continue worshipping from home.
I have often said that there are few problems in the church that can’t be solved with more money and more volunteers, unless of course you have Mike Allen. As our Junior Warden, Mike has responsibility for our buildings and property, and he has taken this responsibility to the next level. When we discovered that our sprinkler system was losing water, Mike not only found the leaks (which was no small task), he also repaired them. When the roof over the colonnade was leaking, Mike fixed that as well. When we needed an easier way to close the doors going into McGlynn Hall, Mike created a button to do the trick. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. By donating his brilliant mind and manual labor Mike has literally saved the church tens of thousands of dollars, and he does it all with a smile.
Deacon Robert Little
My new nickname for Dn. Robert is “Dn. Reliable.” With Fr. Nathaniel focusing his attention on The Table and Dn. DJ being called away regularly for his duties with the state’s emergency management response team, Dn. Robert has been my “go to” guy all year. He has never once complained about helping out with up to four services a weekend, he has preached on a regular basis, assisted with increased pastoral care needs, and simply been available and willing to do whatever needs to be done. Dn. Robert has exemplified the servant role of the deacon this year and ought to be a model for others seeking this important ministry.
Perhaps more than any other group in the church, altar guilds hate change. Not only do they want to do thing the “right” way, they want to do them the same way, and that is something I have always appreciated. However, in 2020 that was impossible. Not only did we double the number of services each weekend, but it also seemed like our setup and procedures changed on an almost weekly basis. As head of our altar guild, Krista received regular emails from me that usually started by saying, “This is how we are going to do things now.” Through it all, Krista has continued to roll with the punches and adapt to our constantly changing situation. She has never once grumbled to me or said, “We’ve never done it that way before,” and she is always willing to fill in when needed.
The People of All Saints
When the pandemic his this past spring and we were forced to close our doors there was a lot of uncertainly, not only at All Saints, but in the Church at large. Would we survive? Would people drift away from the church? Would people stop giving? As we enter 2021 I can say that at All Saints we have not only survived, but we have actually thrived. When we were allowed to reopen our doors, people happily returned to in-person worship. When we asked people to social distance and wear masks at church, the congregation complied, and this has not only allowed us to remain open the entire time but has also helped to prevent outbreaks of the virus in our congregation. Giving not only continued but in some places it even increased. When you factor in those attending services virtually, our average Sunday attendance actually grew in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic. Rather than defeating us, 2020 has shown us how strong and resilient our congregation really is.
Of course, I could go on for pages listing all of the individuals whose hard work and dedication helped to make 2020 a very special year in the life of our parish. For all of those that I missed, please know that you are loved, valued, and appreciated for all that you have done and continue to do. My prayer is that 2021 will be a better year for all of us, but let us not cast aside 2020 with too much bitterness. Through the difficulty of the past year we have been strengthened and refined, and we have learned to trust our Lord Jesus Christ more fully and more deeply as a result. Let us build on that trust this coming year as we continue to seek to do his will, regardless of what the world throws at us.
The Rev. Eric Zolner
Father Eric is a 3rd generation Anglican and the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Springfield, MO.