Dear Members and Friends,
I recently ran into an active member of one of the local churches here in Bay Ridge. She was troubled, because most of the people from her church were not attending worship in person. The majority of her congregation was still attending worship on Zoom. I continue to read in Lutheran publications, on both the national and local level, that we need to embrace new ways of worshipping. We need to utilize technology to gather God’s people together. Quite honestly, I completely disagree. A Christian community cannot grow, thrive and connect with everyone in a box on a screen. That’s ridiculous. And, that’s not healthy or normal.
God’s people have been gathering for thousands of years and we certainly are not going to stop now. In 2022, we came together for every worship service and every fellowship event. We are a Christian family and families need personal contact and interaction. We need to support one another, listen to each other, uplift each other and inspire each other. Our Christian faith was always meant to be lived out in a community of believers. This must never stop.
At Bethlehem, we are blessed to have wonderful music thanks to Maria and our choir. In 2023, our music will be enhanced by the return of organ music in our sanctuary. Our church is a beautiful spiritual place where Terri and her Altar Guild do a great job decorating our worship space. Worship happens every week with the help of Greeters, Lectors, Holy Communion assistants, Ushers, and those who work behind the scenes to prepare and clean up. Worship happens because of the involvement and dedication of our people.
Sunday School and Confirmation classes occur throughout the year. Kathy, her teachers and her helpers truly make Sunday morning a fun, educational experience for our children. God’s Word is being shared with the next generation of believers. Few churches have an active Sunday School program. We are blessed.
Our ministries continued to thrive in 2022. Why? Because, we gather together. In our school, the students learn onsite. There is no remote learning at LES, because remote learning doesn’t work. We are proud of our school and the only challenge is to market our school successfully. More families in the neighborhood need to know what we offer and the quality of the education we provide. We just need to work at boosting our enrollment.
The Bay Ridge Center continues to grow and become more known in the Bay Ridge community. Why? Because, our seniors gather together. We have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, but we are getting there. In 2023, we are looking forward to open the brand new Bay Ridge Center at 15 Bay Ridge Avenue, by the 69th Street Pier. There will be two large floors comprised of meeting rooms, exercise rooms, a meditation room, an eating area and social space. Why do we need this? Because, people need to gather together. It’s healthy and normal to be with one another.
The Healing Center keeps growing. With more programs and services being offered, there are reimbursement issues and cash flow issues, but more people are benefitting from this critical ministry. It was great once again to have our Client/Children’s Christmas party in person in our Parish Room. The room was packed with mothers and children, smiling and enjoying one another’s company. As always, Santa Finkelstein was a beloved figure in the room.
The theme of this annual message is clear. Last year I spoke about resilience. This year I simply want us to embrace being a family of God. We are a family that gathers together. Our faith was never supposed to be lived out in isolation. God’s Spirit gains strength in the gathered community. A community does not gather on a computer. A community gathers in the beauty of a sanctuary to sing our praises, receive the Good News, and be fed with the Lord’s Supper. A community gathers in fellowship around a family table. This is what Bethlehem did in 2022. This is what Bethlehem will continue to do…every year.
2022 Pastoral Acts:
- Hospital, Nursing Home & Home Visits: 42