A ministry colleague of my vintage who is safely retired remarked, “I hear you’re
making pancakes at Aylesford now.” There was, I think, a note of condescension in
his voice, as if this were a poor way to conclude a ministry career.
Actually, I am quite happy to be making pancakes at Aylesford or helping out in
whatever way I can. The monthly pancake breakfasts are times of good food, good
fellowship and good fun. They bring the congregation and the community together.
The fact that they raise several thousand dollars each year to help meet our annual
budget doesn’t hurt either.
In many respects, the pancake breakfasts represent the willing spirit that keeps
this congregation going. Everyone pitches in. Everyone contributes what he/she
can and the job gets done. It may not be fancy but it works.
These days many churches are struggling to keep their doors open and Aylesford United
is by no means immune to the challenges of this age. Our community is aging and
we are affected by the phenomenon of rural depopulation. Why are there so few young
people? Because most of them have to go elsewhere to find employment.
That, of course, is not the whole story. The cultural climate is not exactly hospitable
to faith or to any kind of community involvement. People are mistrustful of institutions
in general and the church in particular. There is no easy way to argue with this
mindset or to push back against its effects.
Nonetheless, all things considered, I think we are doing quite well here at AUC.
What encourages me most is that the congregation, in spite of the energy and resources
required to keep the doors open, has become involved in
a number of outreach projects. There is the on-going work of Days for Girls which
helps make it possible for girls in Africa to avoid missing school due to lack of
sanitary supplies. This year we began supporting the Canadian Food Grains Bank and
in co-operation with Kingston United Church our production of “Scrooge’s Tale” raised
more than $2600 for the Berwick and Kingston Food Banks. There is also the monthly
support for the Food Bank and the continuing loyalty to the Mission and Service Fund.
Not bad at all for a small congregation.
Last fall I accepted a request from Valley Restorative Justice to work with a youth
who needed to do fifty hours of community service. It took him quite awhile to complete
his service with us but he elected to stay here rather than
go where he could finish his hours quickly because everyone treated him so well and
he enjoyed his work so much. I think that is a rather eloquent testimony to the
character of this faith community.
Other reports will tell of the building maintenance projects but I really must mention
the acquisition of a new-to-us Allen digital organ. Thanks to the work of Sarah
Keddy and the organ committee and bequests and donations from the congregation, this
fine instrument is now in place will provide music for many years to come.
I should also tell you that 2018 will be the last year of our current governing
structure in the United Church of Canada. Beginning January 1, 2019, Aylesford
Pastoral Charge will no longer be part of Valley Presbytery and Maritime Conference.
We will be part of the new region of Nova Scotia. What exactly that means is not
yet clear. We are in uncharted territory here.
What is pretty clear is that United Church congregations/pastoral charges
will have to begin finding ways to work together in the absence of Presbytery supervision.
We have already seen an example of this in our collaboration with Kingston on “Scrooge’s
Tale.” Neither congregation could have done this alone
but together we were pretty impressive. We need to seek more opportunities to
work with Kingston, Berwick and Middleton-the pastoral charges nearest to us.
I want to close by thanking everyone for your support and caring during this past
year. I will name a few: Sarah Keddy and the Choir, Tom Skinner, Clerk of Session,
Sue Skinner, Treasurer, Jim Franey, Chair of Trustees and custodian,
Hazel Franey, Chair of Session, Shirley Thompson, Official Board Chair, Kirk MacLennan,
Chair of Stewards, Gladys Hitch, Marilyn Butt, Jane Moses and Tom Skinner (again),
Sunday School teachers. Those named represent all of you
who make the ministry of AUC possible.
We can’t know what the future will bring and we shouldn’t waste energy being negative
about our prospects. We are responsible for being the church in our time and place.
Let us do that to the very best of our ability