I want to highlight a few things about the year ending. I tracked our worship participation all year long in 2022 and 2023. On Sundays, our average participation was about the same as the year before (88 in 2023, 87 in 2022), and our median Sunday was slightly higher (84 in 2023 and 82 in 2022). This is notable because, for the first five months of 2022, we worshiped in two services, which meant that several people (Dr. Nahkur, any music leaders, Vicar Veronika, and me) were being counted twice each Sunday. It's also notable because some of our very faithful every-week worshipers became homebound, died, or moved away, and those who joined our worshiping community tend to be here less frequently. In 2022, we also had several visits from Mount Olive's congregation, which didn't happen in 2023. Holding our own in Sunday participation despite those changes is a sign of real health and resilience in our congregation after a season of major dislocations. By the broadest measure—including holy days and festivals like Christmas Eve, mid-week worship, and preschool family chapel services—our total weekly participation stayed at 116.
Our pledging campaign in 2023 was also solid. Our number of pledges (80) and the total amount pledged ($506,000) were up by ten percent or more from last year. Thirteen of those pledges were new. This has allowed us to confidently move our youth and family ministry director position to full-time, showing that new people are committing to the church's ministry.
We've continued to welcome new worshipers, some of whom have joined the congregation (one through baptism as an adult!), others who plan to participate in 2024, and others who are just becoming acquainted. This is a tremendous blessing and not something I ever take for granted. I've been blessed by my conversations and interactions with these newcomers, and I know they enrich our community in numerous ways.
This year, we have the chance to set new goals. How can we move from welcoming guests in worship and assuring them that they are safe and cherished here to involving them in the wider life of the congregation? How can we continue to build our youth program while also reaching out more deliberately to young adults, the campus community, and the parents of young children? And perhaps most importantly, how will we use our gifts—the immense time, faith, skill, wisdom, and, yes, financial resources of our community—to engage with our broader community in all its joy and need?
This year, we're starting a strategic planning process to help us think through some of these questions deliberately. I'm excited for that. But I'm also just excited about the vigor and enthusiasm of our people. I don't know what the year ahead holds for us; apart from what we all rely on, the Word will be preached, and the Sacraments will be celebrated.
It's an honor and a joy to serve this community. I give thanks to God for all of you. I look forward to how you will inspire and challenge each other and me in 2024.
See you in church!