Dear Friends and Members of Wintergarden,
I still remember Chuck Gilliland coming up to me at the end of season in 2015 and saying to me, “You’re going to be here next year, right?” I responded by saying, “Yes, unless you want to get rid of me.” Chuck responded, “No, you’re going to be here next year, RIGHT?” And with a smile, I said, “Yes.” After reflecting on that moment, I realized that Wintergarden had been without a consistent pastor from season to season for 8 years. Our seasonal friends stayed with the congregation and went through 8 different fill-in pastors for 8 years! I became the Stated Supply Pastor in May of 2014 and I still love being your pastor. I am constantly blessed by every one of you. Thank you. You have been a blessing to my family as well. In our (almost) 3 years together, you have walked with me purchasing a home, my dad’s diagnosis with lung cancer and heart issues, the beginning of Lamont and I dating, Emma’s year of injuries, my dad dying, and Lamont and me getting married. I think 2016 has been a year of getting things in order for my life personally and more settled for the congregation.
As we have continued to work on things in-house, we have completed the By-Laws (with an index) and finalized the Administrative Manual for the congregation. Our ministry team descriptions are written, our Elders and staff have effective and measurable job descriptions, and our values and goals are being implemented and lived into. All of this continued to take a huge amount of time throughout 2015 and 2016, and we are grateful to have these projects wrapped up so we can continue to move forward in a more healthy and sustainable way.
We continue to have new faces in our faith community. Many come through and make Wintergarden their home during the year and during season. I believe there is a feeling of more energy and stability around Wintergarden. For we are truly blessed by every person who walks through our doors. And we hope we are able to be a blessing to them.
As we continue to venture into 2017, we will continue to challenge ourselves to get our into our community and meet our neighbors. We will continue to ask ourselves, “How are we to be the church in 2017 for the Wintergarden neighborhood?” Face to face interaction and conversation is one of the best marketing tools that we have. We all have a responsibility to meet those who are in our midst, those who come through our doors for various meetings, and those we see as we drive down the street. Getting out and meeting our neighbors, opening our doors for everyone, and taking some risks. Sharing the love of Jesus Christ with all we meet will continue to be our main focus for the year.
As we begin 2017, the Session has decided to focus our efforts for the first few months on working through worship enhancements. The Worship Ministry Team is up and running and working on making the mechanics of worship smoother. The Session is beginning the process to hire a new music leader. In addition, we are continuing to do internal and external enhancements to the facility. We have begun painting the classrooms, we replaced the AC unit for the offices, hallway, and bathrooms, and we repaired two AC units (praying we don’t have to replace an AC unit in 2017!). Over this year, we will be creating different avenues for the long-term financial stability of Wintergarden. You will soon be hearing more about “Legacy Giving” and other opportunities to support the budget, capital campaign initiatives, and special giving opportunities. It is also our hope to have tenants using the facility to help create some residual income for the mission of the congregation.
Another big initiative for us is going to be a full marketing campaign. We have been slowly putting ourselves out in the social media spotlight by creating a Facebook page and a dedicated website. We are going to begin a more targeted approach to marketing through mailers, newspaper write-ups and ads, and joining local organizations such as the Cultural Center and Chamber of Commerce. As we continue to look at how we are reaching out into our community, the best marketing is still what YOU share with those you meet and how YOU are living out your faith. Our words and actions must line up with the Good News of Jesus Christ. As your pastor, I will continue to help us to lead from a place of faith and trust in God. I also am still only part-time. With the various needs to continue to put us into a place of more health, stability, and sustainability, I will continue to rely on the elders for on-going pastoral care needs. Know I will also be available by phone and in emergency situations. Never hesitate to call if you are going through a hard time!
As we continue to move forward in the mission and ministry of Wintergarden, it is my hope and prayer that we are following God’s call on our congregation. As I look at the congregation, many of us are aging, tired, and have major health concerns. In looking at this year, many changes need to continue to happen. It is my hope that we are able to “be the change you want to see in the world” and in the process, that we are living as God’s faithful disciples and making disciples through the mission of Wintergarden.
Pastor Devon Beisser Andrews