Mourn and Weep with Hope

 
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’ Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’”
Revelation 7:9-14
 
Dear Servants,
 
As news of the brutal deaths of innocent members of First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, TX unfolds, I return to the readings from our All Saints’ Day service (Nov.1), particularly the reading from Revelation above. We may never know the human reasons for this and other killings, but we know the evil one works in human sinfulness to kill, steal, and destroy. I pray for these latest victims, remembering that they are just a few more of the countless victims of persecution against believing communities around the world each day. Jesus acknowledges such persecutions in His sermon from Matthew 5, verse 10, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
 
How does Jesus call us to respond in the face of tribulation? He proclaims in verse 13, "you are the light of the world." We respond to evil by proclaiming the light of Jesus Christ in a dark world. John's Gospel says the darkness cannot overwhelm the light of Christ! (John 1:5) The Lord has given us gifts, talents, opportunities, and a place to testify to God's goodness in spite of all that we must endure for a while. I was so encouraged Sunday by the believing community that gathered for worship. We were full of both praise and lament. God's people must do both. I am also so thankful to many who have stepped into ministry leadership in various ways, especially over the last few months, to strengthen our church community. Each of you through your ministry involvement is making a difference for the Kingdom. Just being together matters!
 
Now, of course, even as we mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep, we do not do so as those without hope. For Revelation 7 goes on in verse 17,
"For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
 
Jesus is our good shepherd; He is with us through the time of tribulation and will bring us to a place where pain and sorrow are no more. In the meantime, we labor on, confident that Jesus who began a good work in us will see it to completion!  (Phil.1:5)
 
Lots of great things to share with you soon. Keep praying!
 
Onward and upward,


3 Reasons We Live Stream

 
If you’re a regular attender at Servants, you’ll probably have noticed at some point over the last year, the presence of an iPhone on a tripod planted somewhere in the sanctuary. You may have also noticed the woman near the tripod with her face glued to her phone for most of the service, and you may have even asked yourself how she can be so rude. It’s a legitimate question. It’s pretty rude. But is serves a purpose and it’s that purpose I want to share with you.
 
There are three reasons we stream our services live. There are probably more, but these three sum it up nicely. We stream to comfort the body of Christ, to offer those who might never step in our building the experience of a liturgical service, and to be an inviting and wholesome presence on Facebook.
 

Comfort

Our live stream began at the request of Fr. Michael who knew he would be spending significant time away from Servants due to health issues. He couldn’t be present with us without putting his health in danger, so he stayed at home and joined us on Facebook. Just this past Sunday, a woman who was ill and unable to attend her own church in North Carolina joined us. She asked for (and received) prayer. I know of many others who take advantage of gathering virtually because of business trips, vacations, and a handful of other reasons. We want people to be with us in person, but when life keeps them away, we want to offer them the comfort of being close to the body of Christ.
 

Liturgy

As Anglicans, we value the liturgy that has been given to us and we want to share it with others. Liturgy allows us to learn Scripture and theological truths by heart, orienting us to Christ in a world that easily tempts us away from Him. But liturgy can be uncomfortable to a first-timer, so having a way to glimpse our life together without feeling insecure is a benefit. Even if they ultimately decide to go elsewhere, hopefully what they’ve seen in our service – Christ-centered worship – will stick with them.
 

Wholesome Presence

Throughout the service, I keep a close eye on what’s happening on the live stream. I’m greeting people who join, I’m letting them know what Scriptures are being read, and I tell them they can ask for prayer publicly or confidentially. I’m moving the camera to keep the “action” in the frame; I’m answering questions, reacting to comments, troubleshooting connections, and generally being present for those who join us. It’s made a difference. We’re averaging about 4 people weekly who watch the entire service as it’s happening, up from 1 person about a year ago. We want our live presence on Facebook to be inviting and life-giving. When a significant number of the things people scroll past are bad news and tactless opinions, our service can be an oasis in a desert. I’m striving weekly to make it so.
 

Location

You’ve heard the reasons we do this, so now I should probably say a word about why I sit where I sit, since I'm rudely on my phone the whole service in view of just about everyone. The short answer is that closer is better. We’re using a phone, which means the further away we are from the action, the harder it is to feel immersed at home. When we’re closer, we’re less likely to be streaming someone’s backside – and anyone can agree that’s a good thing. When we have a space we can call our own and better equipment, the camera won’t have to be so close to the front, but until then we make do.
 

Social Media as a Whole

Finally, social media is a part of our culture and is now a vital part of our life together at Servants. It’s a free and easy way to show the world that our community is vibrant and caring. Anytime you’re with someone from Servants and you post to social media, consider using #ServantLifeGNV as a way to share our life together with others. This is the official Servants hashtag and almost all our posts will use it going forward so anyone can see with one click what we’re about. It doesn’t have to be an official Servants event to get the hashtag – our life together is about so much more than what goes on in the church building each week.
 
If you have any questions or concerns about hashtags, social media, live streaming, or anything related to communications, I'd love to talk to you. Contact me at nikki@servantsanglican.org.
 
 
 
 
 
Nikki Smith has attended Servants since 2012. She’s a wife and a mom, the director of communications and a youth leader at Servants, and when time allows, she’s a bookworm.


A Month of Prayer

 
Dear Servants,
 
As I mentioned last week in my blog, in October the emphasis will be on the theme of prayer. We have lots of opportunities to pray: Soaking Prayer tomorrow night (Tuesday, Oct. 3, 6:30-8:30pm), intercessory prayer during our liturgy on Sunday, and healing prayer during Communion. But I want to invite you to join me in the new chapel for Evening Prayer at 6:30 pm each Wednesday night in October.
 
Some are busy with our youth ministry, and others are attending the Boada's class on financial contentment and that's great. I was so blessed to walk around the campus last week and see so many of you participating in those discipleship opportunities. I also know of at least one small group that meets on Wednesday nights. Perhaps there are others. Keep meeting just as you are doing. Praise God. But if you are not already involved in one of the above, consider trying out Evening Prayer.
 
One of the gifts of our Anglican heritage is what we call the Daily Offices. The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) website says this about these offices: "Daily Morning Prayer and Daily Evening Prayer are the established rites by which, both corporately and individually, God's people annually encounter the whole of Holy Scriptures, daily confess their sins and praise Almighty God, and offer timely thanksgivings, petitions, and intercessions."
 
It has long been my hope that in time the use of these daily offices might become tools for discipleship in our parish. During my years at seminary, one of my devotional practices was attendance at Morning Prayer each weekday before class. Two of our faithful women have met each Thursday morning for Morning Prayer since Servants began. For years we have used Morning Prayer along with Compline (another Anglican prayer service) at Camp Araminta. The Sunday we cancelled services due to Hurricane Irma, David LaCagnina and a few others led Morning Prayer through Facebook live. During this month-long emphasis on prayer, we want to encourage the parish to try out these resources. You can find liturgies for these and other services at the ACNA website.
 
At the end of Evening Prayer (usually 30 minutes) I am also inviting you to remain with me in the chapel for conversation. It has been brought to my attention that there have been lots of changes over the last year, and with those changes, plus the prospect of purchasing a new worship space, many of you may have questions. I look forward to a rich time of sharing in "all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:2-4
 
God bless you all in the week to come.
 
 
Onward and Upward,
 


Moving Toward Prayer


 
 
Dear Servants,
 
A year ago during the season of Advent, the vestry leaders set a strategic goal to encourage daily Scripture reading among the membership of Servants. At the time, the vestry was reading and talking about a book called MOVE which found that the number one factor in spiritual growth among Christians was regular individual Bible reading. You may recall the Advent devotionals from members sharing their own interaction with Scripture. Shortly, you will receive a survey through email asking you to consider whether you are engaging with Scripture in your personal life more, less, or the same as a year ago? I look forward to your honest feedback.
 
Over the summer while on sabbatical, one of the books I was drawn to read was a newer book by Pastor Tim Keller Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. In this book, Keller suggests that one of the most effective ways to pray as a believer is in conjunction with your Bible reading. The idea is that as God speaks to you through His Word, you respond by prayer back to the Lord. When I returned in July, the vestry felt lead to begin a new strategic goal of encouraging us to be a prayer-centered church. This seemed like a natural follow up to our focus on Scripture reading.
 
Several things will be happening in the month of October that I want to make you aware of. Starting October 8, I will begin a three week sermon series on prayer during our normal Sunday worship. We will examine three different aspects of prayer and its implication for our daily life. In addition, we will hear testimonies from three different members of Servants about their own journey of prayer. Then on October 29th, the fifth Sunday in October, we will have a joint 9:30am service focused on prayer. We will begin with the Anglican Morning Prayer service. Then you will be able choose among several lay-lead breakout sessions on a range of prayer topics. We will then reassemble for Eucharist before dismissal. I know this will seem a bit unusual for most, but the vestry is committed to finding ways to encourage us to be a prayer-centered church. I hope you will attend.
 
Before I finish this article, I must thank all of the Servants family that shared in food and preparation for the memorial service for our dear brother, Dale Haskell. The outpouring of love and support for Dale's wife Karen, her family, and Dale’s colleagues demonstrated love in action.
 
Lastly, I am excited to announce a special All Saints’ Day service with Baptisms on Wednesday, November 1st at 6:30pm.
 
God bless you all as we journey into the fall seeking to be shaped by prayer.
 
Onward and Upward,
 


His Work in the Storm

 
If the clouds are full of rain,
they empty themselves on the earth,
and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones
in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know
the work of God who makes everything.
Ecclesiastes 11:3-5
 
 
 
Dear Servants,
 
It's not often I can quote from the book of Ecclesiastes, so when I came across this passage I just had to write a blog.
 
Like most of you, I’m trapped in my house watching the weather and wondering what the next 24 hours will bring. I take from the writer of Ecclesiastes (King Solomon) that we aren’t going to make sense of this hurricane. This will be an event like so many natural events that we must live by faith and trust that the Lord has a plan.
 
“He who observes the wind will not sow,” I take to mean a lot of time can be wasted watching the weather. Consider alternatives, at least periodically, to staring at the Weather Channel or out the back door (one of my favorite pastimes). For instance, I’m trying to catch up on my daily Bible reading (yes, I’m about 3 days behind) along with some time spent finishing a book. I realize that some of you are trapped with young children and so free time isn’t in great supply.  May we all pray for those caring for young children during this storm. Lord, give them strength!  If it’s any consolation young parents, I would give anything to have my three back here living through this storm with me. Can’t help but think about Hurricane Charlie back in 2004.
 
We do not understand the work of God, Solomon tells us, but we do know His work for us. The sermon I didn’t get to give this morning from Romans 12 includes verses 12-13 where Paul shows us love in action:
 
“12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
 
For now we meditate on verse 12. Once this storm has passed (and it will pass) there will be many opportunities to practice verse 13. Be mindful of the needs of others, show hospitality and contribute to needs where possible. Just this morning at the church, I found a family from Trenton, FL living in our worship space. Thanks to the McCreadys we were able to outfit them with two air mattresses rather than having them sleep on the pews another night.
 
Like Solomon, I don’t know what God’s work with be in this storm, but I am reminded of Matthew 14:22-33, Jesus is Lord over the storm and He comes to us in its midst. Stay safe and I will see you next Sunday if not before.
 
God bless and keep you,
Alex +


Seeking Financial Contentment: Biblical Principles, Practical Tools

 
For I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11b-13 (NRSV)
 
Whether we like it or not, money is a huge part of our lives. We spend a significant portion of each day earning money, spending money, thinking about money. That is not inherently a bad thing, but for many people it is a source of worry and obsession. And the world does not help by its push to consume and acquire more. This stress and worry is not what God wants for us, and the church is to be about helping people get out from under this weight and showing that there is a better way to live.
 
Unfortunately, the church as a whole has a problem talking about money. Either the church talks about money so much that people feel like that's all it cares about. Or, to avoid being perceived as the former, it deemphasizes and avoids the subject. In either case, it often times fails to address or provide solutions for the real-world difficulties with which people are struggling. So the call from the church to give sacrificially often only adds to the guilt and stress.
 
Adrienne and I want to help fill that gap. The Bible provides answers to our real-world struggles, and we believe that the answer to financial stress lies in contentment – the opposite goal that the world presents. As we learn to be content with what we have, to recognize that we are called to be stewards of what God has entrusted to us, then it is easier to practically manage our possessions. This perspective is one of the ways we “learn to do everything Jesus said.”
 
Starting on September 20th, Adrienne and I will be facilitating a class on biblical principles for dealing with money and practical guides to budgeting and financial management. The 8-week class will be part book study – where we will go through Your Money Counts together learning the biblical perspective on "earning, spending, savings, investing, giving, and getting out of debt” – and part budgeting workshop – where we will introduce tools and techniques for managing money on a daily basis. We will be meeting at the church from 6:30 - 8:00pm with childcare provided.
 
So whether you are a natural saver or are living paycheck to paycheck, join us on September 20th for the class overview to discuss what the Bible has to say on being financially content. Contact us at JoseAndAdrienne@boada.org if you plan to attend or have any questions. You can also RSVP on our Facebook event page.
 
 
 
Jose Boada
 
 
Though both Jose and Adrienne have some experience in finance - Jose has led a Crown Financial Ministries course, and Adrienne has a degree in finance and is our treasurer - they would hardly classify themselves as experts. Since everyone struggles with money in some shape or form, they both have a passion for bringing people together to learn how to find financial contentment in Christ. On a more personal level, they both love the Gators and traveling to visit friends.


The Question of Suffering

 
 
“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:21-23
 
Dear Servants,
 
On Sunday, by the grace of God, I will preach on the necessity of suffering from the words of Jesus written above. Suffering, while we cannot always understand God’s purpose in it, is something we all experience. Viktor Frankl, a Nazi concentration camp survivor, was convinced that “our response to unavoidable suffering is one of the chief ways of finding [the] meaning [of life].” (Philip Yancey, The Question That Never Goes Away, p. 52)
 
Like you, I find myself in prayer this week for those suffering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, along with all my brothers and sisters suffering within our community. We Floridians know the scary moments before a hurricane, worrying about how bad the storm will be. Some of us also know how horrible the winds and rains can be, disrupting our everyday lives for weeks afterward. Though I for one have no idea what it is like to suffer through the kind of flooding happening in Texas. If you are looking for a way to help, you might donate to the Anglican Relief and Development Fund or any of a host of other amazing charities focused on bringing relief. One of our ACNA bishops, Fr. Clark lives in the Houston area and is working with local ministries to aid those displaced.

In the face of such suffering, not just in Texas and Louisiana but in our own congregation, I am reminded of a book I read during my sabbatical that I found helpful. Philip Yancey, a well-known Christian author, has written a book called The Question That Never Goes Away, which I quoted from above. In it, he explores the question of suffering, focusing on mass tragedies in particular. He has spoken to groups following tragedies like Columbine and Sandy Hook Elementary here in the U.S., the tsunami of 2012 in Japan, and the bloody civil war in Sarajevo. Talk about speaking into fear and darkness! Before you run out and buy it, he doesn’t give the definitive answer for “why suffering.” But it is helpful on many levels for struggling with the issue as a follower of Jesus. As we struggle with these ideas together, allow me to relate a couple of his points.
 
First, Yancey reminds the reader that every critical question about suffering that people ask of God can also be found in Scripture. We are not alone in our doubts and questions. Next, he also points out that Jesus did not meet people with theological answers to suffering, but rather touched them, healed them, and spoke words of comfort. God is now working through His Church to do the same. Lastly, Yancey reminds us that God promises a day of restoration; quoting from John 14, “I go away to prepare a place for you.” I recommend this book to you as a helpful tool.
 
Please know what a privilege it is for me to walk along with you through the painful circumstances of your lives. May we gather Sunday to be reminded of our hope in Christ and to pray for one another and the world.
 
Onward and Upward,
 
 
 
 
 


A Place to Worship and Grow

 
"'And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.'"
Matthew 16:18
 
Dear Servants,
 
In the sermon Sunday I will tackle the above passage from the mouth of Jesus. What, if anything, is Jesus saying in this passage about the modern church in all its current manifestations? After all, we have everything from mega-churches to family-sized, various denominations, non-denominational types, liturgical, online, traditional, revisionists, etc. I don’t want to steal my own thunder for Sunday, but I do want to tease out a thought that arises from time to time with regard to picking a local congregation to attend.
 
As of late, I have been asked to officiate several weddings for young adults. I was, in fact, down in the Orlando area this past weekend to officiate another wedding. One of the by-products of taking on these weddings outside the congregation is that I get to speak into the lives of young adults through the pre-marital counseling (usually 4 or 5 sessions via Skype). One point I focus on is finding a congregation to join so that you and your spouse can grow together in Christ. The classic way of stating this is ‘if both husband and wife are growing closer to the Lord individually, the closer they will become as a couple.’ In the early days of my marriage, Sunday mornings were one of the times Jody and I felt the closest. Finding a congregation in which to worship and grow with your spouse is so essential to marriage.
 
I don’t think many would disagree with this statement; however something changes when we have children, especially when children become a little older and start expressing their thoughts and feelings. At this point, some married couples put their own spiritual growth on the “back burner” and focus primarily on finding a church that meets their children’s needs. I remember years ago, a young couple saying that they really loved worshiping at SOC but that the service was just so long with weekly communion that they had decided to join a church with a one hour service…for the kids.
 
The question I want to raise is simply, if finding a place for worship and growth is so essential for a couple, why is it no longer a factor for that couple once kids come along? I have two points to make. First, I would strongly suggest that the spiritual life/health of mom and dad is the number one determinant of the spiritual health of children. In fact, Deuteronomy 6 reminds us that as parents, it is our responsibility to be the primary disciplers of our children. Verse 7 says, “You shall teach [these commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” For this reason, I think the most important question for parents to ask when seeking a congregation is, where can I best worship, be spiritually fed and equipped to lead my children?
 
Second, I would like to point out that where our children want to go to church or what they think should happen at church is not always truly best. I always go back to a time when we were living in Pittsburgh and the kids asked if they could climb out their upstairs bedroom window and play on the roof. Would it be tons of fun for a kid to go on the roof? Yes. Would it be best for them? No! Our job is to train our children in the way they should go. This means we as their parents must make the best decision we can for them, whether they understand it or not. As a former youth pastor, I can tell you that the biggest factor in your child pursuing Christ in the adolescent years will be if they have a core group of friends also seeking Jesus. That is not guaranteed in a church of any size but can be achieved in a church regardless of size. I am so grateful for the friends Jake, Charleigh, and Samantha had growing up. I’m also thankful for caring adults at Servants of Christ who invested in their lives. The focus of our prayers and action should be in helping them make good friendships, and for a community that can speak into their lives with the love of Christ. Now I’m not suggesting you should join a congregation where there is no thought or resources for children and youth ministry. This is why I am so thankful for Kim Harris and Nikki Smith who lead our ministry to youth and children. Pray for this important ministry as we head into the fall. I pray that SOC is a place where you as adults are growing in relationship to Christ, fully equipped to lead your children. If any of you have questions, Jody and I are always available for conversations about raising kids: it’s one of our passions.
 
See you Sunday,
 


About the Special Parish Meeting

 
Dear Servants,
 
We are only days away from our Special Parish Meeting on Sunday, August 20th. We will enjoy a fish fry dinner starting at 5:00pm followed by an information meeting regarding the opportunity before us for a facility purchase and also an update on our current financial position. There will be a presentation from several key leaders and then opportunity for the congregation to ask any questions or bring forward any concerns.
 
I trust every member, and anyone interested in hearing what Servants is planning, has RSVPd by now. The fish fry is being paid for by the vestry members because they feel the need for this meeting so strongly. The meal will be catered by a team from Forest Meadows Funeral Home – their cook team makes these fish fries available to non-profits at cost! Please thank these generous men on Sunday.
 
For those who could not be in church last Sunday, my sermon focused on Matthew 14. Jesus invited Peter to step out of the boat and walk to where He was on the Sea of Galilee. While I didn’t mention the building purchase process and finances specifically, this week God keeps bring this image to my mind. Meeting with the vestry and preparing for our time together Sunday, keep in mind that Jesus is calling us to come to where He is. This requires faith on our part. It also requires us to keep our eyes focused on Jesus rather than the storm. Storms are scary! Yet Jesus comes to us “walking through the storm,” wrote Rev. Dr. Michael Green. “Jesus walks on the storm.” My prayer is that God will continue to strengthen our congregation and unify us around His vision for our parish.
 
Like all of you, I rejoice in the news that the potentially-violent rally with an extremist speaker which was planned at UF on September 12 has been cancelled. Yet even when we still thought this “storm” was coming, our eyes stayed focused on our Lord! I rejoice in the unity among the churches of Gainesville, which crosses racial lines. Today the Alachua County Christian Pastors’ Association (of which I am a member) will meet for our monthly fellowship under the leadership of President Karl Anderson and Vice-President Phil Courson. I am confident that regardless of what plans the evil one brings against our city or county, the body of Christ in this city will stand in unity “to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.”  (Micah 6:8, ESV)
 
Onward and Upward,
 
 


Back and Refreshed

 
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31
 
 
Dear Servants,
 
Not surprisingly, “how was your sabbatical?” is the most common question asked of me these days. I am humbled and grateful for all of those who prayed for me and graciously released me for that time away. Short answer, sabbatical was what I needed: the balance of alone time, time with my family, hiking, golf, kayaking, reading, prayer, and reflection time.
 
Most of all, I would say it was refreshing. I find myself with more energy not just for the exciting stuff like Camp Araminta and new facilities but even for the places of tension and problems that confront any congregation. Having spent lots of time listening to God over the sabbatical, I am ready to listen to individuals within the parish with new energy and compassion.
 
Big thanks to all the ministry leaders, lay and ordained, who picked up additional responsibilities in my absence. We are blessed to have such an incredible group of leaders at Servants and without them, my sabbatical could not have happened. I could leave for ten weeks, knowing that the parish was in competent hands.
 
Since my return on July 9th, my plan has been to catch up on all the goings on of the congregation and any pastoral issues that need attention. As most of you know, I took sabbatical early to return in time for our mission outreach at Camp Araminta for children and youth, 4th-12th
grades. While officially this is a diocesan summer camp, a disproportionate number of the adult staff comes from Servants of Christ. I am so grateful to John and Kim Harris, Jamey and Beth Kirby, David and Tracy LaCagnina, Leanne Manley, and Scott Stephenson who served sacrificially at camp this summer. In addition to our adults, some of our college and high school students gave sacrificially of their time: Clara Darr, Samantha and Charleigh Farmer, Kieran Kirby, Carter and Mallory Matthews, and Grace Schuppie.
 
The fruit of Araminta can only partially be measured at this time. As I said during the sermon Sunday, the Kingdom work of discipling our children and youth takes years to realize fully. I can tell you that we had 180 campers this year with 14 of them making first-time professions of faith in Jesus! Praise God. Overall, Camp Araminta grew by another 20% for which we give thanks to the Lord. We rejoice in what God has done through the ministry once again this summer.
 
So, what should you expect for the fall? In just over a week our children and teachers return to school, and shortly after, UF and Santa Fe students and faculty will return to class. The fall is fast upon us. The vestry has two objectives for this academic year. One is to promote and encourage members in their prayer life. You will recall last fall we focused on daily Bible reading. You can look forward to teaching and testimonies that seek to relate the “how to,” as well as the “why” of prayer in our daily life. Secondly, the vestry is moving forward with plans for the purchase of permanent facilities for our life together and worship. You will hear a lot more information about this at our Special Parish Meeting, Sunday, August 20th at 5pm. Dinner and childcare will be provided by some generous individual vestry members for this meeting, so RSVP to the Facebook event or call the church office at (352) 271-1188.
 
I thank the Lord for renewing my strength over the summer and know that God has prepared me to lead our congregation into this new season of growth. Please continue to pray for other leaders in the parish, as well as, myself as we move into the fall. I am praying for you.
 
Onward and Upward,