From the 2019 Ministry Narrative
This year, we have continued to do our best to be a “Welcoming Church.” While it seems second nature, we continue to be mindful of the need to help guests feel comfortable, knowing that we have been given an extraordinary privilege in worshiping with them. As a result, new folks are with us, sharing the totality of ministry found in the Body of Christ.
One of the ways we make the services more user-friendly is to provide a special bulletin with the entirety of the service printed out. For those who are more comfortable with electronic devices we have five “tablets” available for use with the entire service downloaded on them, as well as a QR code sheet at hand to facilitate downloading the bulletin to anyone’s own mobile device.
Last year we finally accomplished something we have talked about for years, getting name tags. This has gone a long way in helping us all put a name to the faces we see each week and ones we don’t see as often. It also gives guests and our many seasonal members the opportunity to quickly feel comfortable addressing each other.
On Sundays, acolytes, chalice bearers, greeters, nursery care providers, readers, our musician, the leaders of Children’s Chapel, the altar guild and care groups, flower guild, the priest, and the congregation, proclaim a most visible and central act of ministry in the Church which is worship.
For the eighth year, we have a choragos, which is a Greek word meaning “one who leads a chorus or choir.” In a more modest way, we do the same on Wednesdays at The Springs in Whitefish, a retirement community, where we have had as many as a dozen people present. New residents have joined us and we are going strong building up that congregation. We also hold services there on Christmas Eve and Good Friday for much larger congregations.
Similarly, we have the Thursday service at All Saints’, which is followed by book study that recesses during the summer. When we add to this schedule major festival days, such as Christmas, and the additional services during Holy Week, worship commands a tremendous amount of time in planning.
And, as in years past, we have celebrated Requiem Eucharists (funerals with Holy Communion) for residents who have died at assisted living and extended care facilities in Whitefish, Columbia Falls, and Kalispell. Having these services enable fellow residents and members of the staff to take part in celebrating the resurrection and remembering their friends, people who are actually extended family.
From preparing the bulletin, making certain the church is heated or air conditioned, having the lights on and the snow shoveled, arranging the flowers, setting the altar, cleaning the church, to the organist and choragos practicing the hymns, there are considerable resources and energy devoted to worship. Of course, none of this would be possible without a tremendous gift of hours of work from many parishioners, a function of our being members of the Body of Christ by virtue of our baptism.
We are also a family in ways beyond regular Sunday and weekly worship. We gather to mourn the deaths of members of the parish when we come together for their burials reminding all of us of the church’s message that life is changed, not ended. At the same time we celebrate our kinship when we gather for marriages and baptisms.
There are some expressions of worship which are done primarily outside our church proper. Besides services at The Springs, we provide home communions for individuals who are housebound or in medical facilities. We regularly visit parishioners at The Beehive Assisted Living Facility and the Veteran’s Home in Columbia Falls, as well as Brendan House and the Immanuel Lutheran Home Communities in Kalispell.
When speaking of worship opportunities beyond the walls of the church, we have to mention the Blessing of the Animals! Over the years, we have had present for the festivities: dogs, cats, chickens, a gecko, hamsters, horses, and their assorted human companions. This has become a much anticipated community event sometimes involving more than fifty animals. In addition to the usual blessing, we also pay special attention to remembering pets who now enjoy everlasting life. We use materials available from The Episcopal Church as the church has now developed services for the blessing of pets and commemorating the life of a companion animal who has died. These services are a direct result of the advocacy of our Rector Emeritus, Bradley Wirth, the Diocese of Montana, the Diocese of Utah, and a few other entities at the General Convention in 2012. Because of those efforts, the ashes of several pets now rest in our memorial garden having had “the services of the church.”