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On Sunday, Cove is having its annual congregation meeting. And since we do this yearly, every January we have the opportunity to reflect on what happened during the prior year, and I’m including both the positives and the challenges. And personally, I believe it’s important to consider both, because if we aren’t open and honest about our church, it’s likely that we’ll stay just the way we are into the next year, if we’re lucky. If we’re not, we’ll become like old soldiers and just fade away, trying to be relevant in a world that may no longer exists and doing what we’ve always done while expecting results different than what we’ve seen in this last decade. And so I think it’s necessary to spend a little time reflecting on the recent past. Of course, I also recognize that every member of the congregation has his or her own opinions; therefore, the conclusions reached won’t be anonymous. As a matter of fact, someone might view an event as a success while someone else might see it as an abject failure. That’s just the way it is. But even this can be positive, if we’re willing to listen to one another, try to understand the other perspective and then work together to chart a new course somewhere in the middle. And so that’s what we’re going to do on Sunday.
Now having said that, it seems to me that things were pretty rough as we entered 2016. Although we were in a financial tight place, we also seemed to be struggling with something as basic as unity and as Christian as joy. For example, it seemed to me that we lacked direction, but not with the big stuff, and I’m talking about our faith in Jesus Christ. Rather we were suffering death by a thousand cuts. In other words, a lot of relatively small things were pulling us apart, all of which were distracting us from our mission to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to as many folks as we could. And this was also draining a lot of our joy. People seemed unhappy about “this, that and the other.” And we conveyed that unhappiness in every worship service. Of course, regardless of the kind of hymns we sing or the order we follow or the bulletin we use, it’s hard to be inviting to those on the outside when you’re unhappy about what’s happening on the inside. Anyway, from my perspective, that’s where we were at the beginning of last year. We seemed to be floundering.
Of course, in this next year, we’ll have the chance to address some of the issues we face. There are still folks who feel as though their needs are neglected and their opinions ignored. We need to address those concerns. Low worship attendance remains an issue, and financially, we don’t have a very large safety net. Although we’ve taken some very definite steps to improve communication both online and in the bulletin, there’s still room for improvement. And I don’t believe there’s any question about our need to reach out into community that surrounds us and to do it in a way that engages folks, encouraging them to come and see the one we recognize as our Lord and Savior. In other words, we still have plenty of growing to do. But this is something we can do together. And I believe that process has started. From where I stand, a lot of the negativity I heard a year ago, I don’t hear anymore, and that’s a good thing. In the last couple of years, some new people have gotten involved who’ve brought into our congregation a new sense of excitement and purpose to say nothing of some great, new ideas that we’re going to need as we move into the future.
And so, I can say with all sincerity, I’m a lot more optimistic today than I was a year ago. And even though we may be taking baby steps, I think we’re moving in the right the direction. Without question, God has put us here for a reason. Whether we like it or not, we have a mission in downtown Weirton, in the upper Ohio Valley and around the world. In this next year, let’s come together and coordinate our time, talents and money so that we might, first, claim it and then, second, begin to accomplish it.
Below are some congregational pictures from 2016: