Beloved members of St. Gregory’s, the following is my report from a blessed year for ministry together. I remain deeply grateful that God has called me to serve as your Rector and called our entire family to live and minister with you in this community of grace.  As I look back on 2016 two interrelated events stand out– the Long-Range Strategic Planning Process and the Sabbatical Season.

In January 2016, the results of the RenewalWorks process were announced to the congregation at our Annual Meeting. This represented Phase One of our planning process where we focused on spiritual growth. The questions we asked were:  How do we encourage members to move in their relationship with God in Jesus Christ? What practices inspire and equip members to grow in their love for God, neighbor and self?  We labeled this desire for spiritual growth and a deepening of our discipleship as “Transforming Hearts”.
 
Phase One was initiated with a congregation-wide survey that over 150 members completed.  Results were then reviewed by a representative committee and the following insights were gleaned. 
 
We want to grow spiritually as individuals and as a congregation;
We want to encourage this growth by providing the necessary resources;
We want to cultivate a culture of expectation that spiritual growth–the transforming of hearts–is part of our spiritual DNA; and,
We want to ensure that everything we do flows from our relationship with God in Jesus Christ as enabled by the Holy Spirit.
 
In the Spring of 2016 we began Phase Two of the planning process which focused more closely on our ministries at St. Gregory’s and our common life together. Our goal in Phase Two, in response to the insights from Phase One and in listening closely to God’s Spirit, was to determine what new initiatives for mission and ministry emerged from our renewed commitment to grow spiritually and to transform hearts.
 
Our Long-Range Strategic Planning Leadership Team developed a second survey that focused on our congregation’s life and developed a series of initiatives based on four pillars for our ministry life–Worship, Outreach, Discipleship and Pastoral Care. We also examined two foundational areas–our infrastructure and staffing–that support these ministry pillars. These initiatives were then shared with the Vestry, staff and ministry leaders of St. Gregory’s to determine their importance and priority level. The results of this second phase will be shared with the entire congregation at our 2017 Annual Meeting.
 
I want to give special thanks to the members of the Long-Range Strategic Planning Committee for their work. Bobbie Welzien, Walter Jones and Stephen Von Oehsen served as committee chairs.  Members included Pat Jordan, Rob Mitchell, Anita Sherman, Nancy Stroud and Betsy Wenzel.  I also give special thanks to Charlotte Pelton, who served as our consultant for this process.
 
Intimately entwined with this planning process was our congregation’s Sabbatical Season from May to September.  During this eleventh year as your Rector, I was immensely grateful to take a three and a half month sabbatical, supported by a grant from the Lilly Foundation. The vision was to create a sabbatical experience for me and my family as well as for the congregation.  The theme for this shared experience would be a “Deepening of Discipleship” that reflected our desire for spiritual growth and the transformation of our hearts.
 
With the help of a dedicated Sabbatical Planning Committee (later the Sabbatical Leadership Team) both the Sherman family and our congregation had a formative and renewing experience which I believe will continue to shape our life in the years to come.  I want to acknowledge the pastoral leadership of Pastor Angela Cortiἦas, Fr. Craig Burlington and Mrs. Nancy Stroud, our Senior Warden, who provided superb and faithful leadership during the sabbatical. I also want to thank so many members who offered their gifts in making the Sabbatical Tasting Menu–our slate of special sabbatical ministries and events–so meaningful.
 
My experience and our family’s experience in Jerusalem, Paris and India were almost indescribable blessings to us.  My life and our family’s life will forever be marked by the grace that we received from God during this extraordinary time.  I look forward to the abundant spiritual harvest from this time as we move into 2017 and beyond.
 
I want to express thanks to our staff at St. Gregory’s.  We have a dedicated team both of paid, professional staff and many volunteers who serve this congregation so well.  In 2016, we sadly said goodbye to our Communications Director, Stephanie Anderson and joyfully welcomed Elena Tayem as our new Communications Coordinator. 
 
I also want to thank my beloved wife, Anita, for her love, support and ministry.  Her presence is life-giving to me and to the congregation. On January 3rd we gratefully celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary.  I’m grateful for the gift of our children, Jacob and Hannah, and for Susamma, my mother-in-law.  We minister as a family.  It is an ongoing joy to share life together at St. Gregory’s.
 
Thank you, God, for the gift of 2016!  I ask God to continue to bless abundantly the life we share with You in this congregation of grace.  Keep us rooted, grounded, growing and thriving in your life and love.
 
Christ’s peace,
 
Andrew+
 
The Rev. Andrew J. Sherman, Rector