Annual Church Meeting Report

Emmanuel Church Community, March, 2014
Emmanuel Church Community, March, 2014

Below is Emmanuel Church’s Report for the St John’s Cathedral Annual Church Meeting, held on Sunday 27 April 2014

It has been another very productive year for the Emmanuel community. We are stronger in worship, warmer in fellowship, deeper through discipleship, and getting larger through outreach and evangelism. New parishioners, and especially young families, continue to join Emmanuel. Some newer members now read the lessons or intercessions or are involved in the Sunday School ministry. Two others are now active committee members.

I believe there are a number of reasons why Emmanuel has prospered so well during the past year and why newcomers choose to make Béthanie their spiritual home…

First: the ongoing weekly laity-led Bible Study fellowship held in a parishioner’s home, usually attended by 8 people. I should like to record my sincere thanks to Eric and Stacey Usher for their unstinting commitment to this much-valued ministry throughout another year.

Second: the introduction of a monthly clergy-led Wednesday Night Together group, all of which have been held in Chris and Lydia Erving’s Pokfulam home. WNT has been well supported and usually attracts 15-18 parishioners of all ages.  Without doubt, Chris and Lydia’s gracious and generous hospitality has played no small part in the success of this monthly gathering. A huge ‘Thank You’ to them!

Third: the return of the ever-popular Brunch-on-the-Terrace Sundays. Three were held over the year each attracting up to 50 parishioners and children. They are great fun, easy to organise, and everyone contributes something to the food and fellowship. More are planned for this year.

Fourth: last year’s successful Stewardship Campaign certainly helped Emmanuel achieve its highest level of financial growth in its 30-year history.

Fifth: a number of well organized and well attended visits to museums and exhibitions throughout the year were opportunities for parishioners to further get to know one another outside church.

These and other activities have done a lot to bring the parish family together. Strong personal friendships are developing all the time and these have helped make Béthanie a warm and welcoming place to be on any Sunday morning. Every visitor I speak to after church remarks on the friendliness of the community.

Under the joint leadership of Kate Moore and Erin McElhatton the Sunday School is in good heart. Together with four other teachers, Kate and Erin continue to make good use of Seasons of the Spirit material, an inclusive program integrating the learning, worship, and serving ministries of the Church. The Sunday School remains a fundamental part of Emmanuel’s ministry. The Sunday School now publishes its own quarterly newsletter.

Trinity Sunday saw the return of the Cantata Choir, alumni from the Ebenezer School for the blind and visually impaired in Pokfulam. It was the Choir’s 11th visit to Emmanuel and they will return this year on Sunday Ist June. As one of Emmanuel’s designated charities in 2013, the Cantata Choir was presented with a cheque for over $15K to help some members further their music studies.

Operation Smile was another designated charity in 2013 and Emmanuel raised over $23K to help further their mission. Operation Smile’s work involves funding operations to repair facial deformities, and the money we raised was enough for five children to have corrective surgery.

Emmanuel’s first Back to Church Sunday service was held last October. I think to everyone’s surprise (certainly mine) the chapel was packed to capacity for the Sung Eucharist. Publicity for the day was of a high standard and everyone seemed to get right behind the new venture. The committee has decided this year’s Back To Church Sunday will be combined with Harvest Thanksgiving in early October.

Despite miserable weather on the night, the chapel was full for the annual Nine Lessons and Carols Service. Without a doubt, Felix Yeung’s Die Konzertisten Choir added greatly to the service. For many choir members it was their first visit to Béthanie and they were delighted to perform in a space with such fine acoustics. I have already booked Die Konzertisten for our 2014 carol service.

There were 80 communicants at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, about the same as in previous years. This year I invited a professional trumpeter to play from the gallery to support some of the carols, which added a nice touch of ‘theatre’ to the celebration. On Christmas Day morning there was standing room only for the Mass for the Nativity of our Lord. The atmosphere was terrific and the singing joyfully exuberant.

It is exactly a year since Fr Robert Martin joined Emmanuel as Associate Priest. It has been a hugely successful partnership, a real sharing of professional ministry, and perhaps, dare I suggest, even a model for the two other daughter churches to follow. Fr Robert and I come from much the same High Church Anglican stable and yet are able to offer Emmanuel our own distinctive gifts, and without in any way threatening one another. We meet regularly to discuss Emmanuel issues and share a lot of the day-to-day pastoral work.

I am especially grateful to Fr Robert for creating some excellent new liturgies. His broad experience in this area has equipped him with an intuitive insight into what works and what doesn’t in a church service. He is now about halfway through updating all our liturgies for everyone’s benefit at Emmanuel.

Next month Fr Robert will move to a new apartment in Pokfulam. At a stroke this will solve one of Emmanuel’s biggest problems in recent years – not having a clergy/church venue for occasional mid-week meetings in Pokfulam. I believe this development will be of enormous benefit to the community in the years’ ahead.

A highlight in Emmanuel’s calendar this year will undoubtedly be Fr Robert’s 30th Anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood. Archbishop Paul has kindly agreed to celebrate a Festive Sung Eucharist at 10:15am on Sunday 13th July.  Members of Die Konzertisten Choir will lead the singing. This celebration will be the Archbishop’s first return to Emmanuel since my installation four years ago.  Should be a wonderful day!

I’d like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of churchwardens Chris Erving and     Wallace Lai, committee secretary Andrea Kan, Sunday School coordinators Kate Moore and Erin McElhatton and all the teachers, refreshments coordinator Jonathan Mok, and everyone else who serves on the Emmanuel Committee. Their generous support and encouragement to me personally and to the entire congregation is much appreciated and highly valued.

I should also like to give special thanks to Alex and Esme Lee, both of whom give so much to Emmanuel and ask for nothing in return.  As sacristan, Alex has been at my side at every Sunday service over the past four years. That really is loyalty and dedication! All of us are richly blessed by Alex and Esme’s abiding presence at Emmanuel.

Last, but by no means least, I’d like to say a big ‘Thank You’ to our team of organists: Bryan Carter, Dave Werner, Gigi Lam and Jason Hung. Church organists often get taken for granted and rarely receive any praise or gratitude for their skills. We would certainly miss them if they were not there! Emmanuel is very fortunate to have such a strong team of musicians to lead our worship every week.

You will conclude from the above that all is well at Emmanuel and that 2014 promises to be another exciting and rewarding year in our Lord’s service.

Fr Nigel S D Gibson,  Priest-in-Charge