Ezra is a busybody! Ezra always wants to know everyone's business, how they are doing, all of their joys and even their disappointments. Ezra is relentless; the emails begin around the first of December, "Don't forget me!!!" They don't stop coming until you share freely the details of life over the past twelve months and you do so before Ezra's deadline in January. Every. Single. Year.

I read in an email from the Apple Corps Sunday school class that this Sunday they are taking inventories of their personal experiences over the past year. Ezra functions a lot like that. You see, Ezra is the data management system for the United Methodist denomination, and it is to Ezra that each January we submit the accounting of numbers that represent the life of the congregation. These numbers include financials, yes, but even more importantly they also include the relational data: baptisms, professions of faith, participation in worship, small groups, mission work, etc. For those of you who are the designee in our class or small group to provide to Deanna weekly the total participants, it is for Ezra that you helping us gather the details of our life together. Day in, day out, week in, week out, those numbers don't mean too much apart from the whole, but in January they come together to form a whole picture. Sometimes the picture is a happy one, sometimes it can be disappointment. If you pay attention, it seldom surprises you. If you are distracted, it can. This year I was distracted, and Ezra surprised me - in a very good way!

It would be easy to assume that because the campus has been closed for almost 11 months and we aren't all seeing everyone on a regular basis that our numbers would be down. It would be easy, but it would be wrong.

Chris and Deanna just finished crunching the numbers, most of which YOU provided over the course of the year. Ezra's magic mirror reflects a church that may have a closed campus, but is very much alive. Let me share just a few of the many wonderful things there are to celebrate:

Baptisms and Professions of Faith
  • Baptisms of Persons from Birth to 12 - 5 (this is up by one over last year, and all five occurred during the pandemic, what a joy to celebrate!) And our total number of baptisms for the entire year was only down by one from last year.
  • Professions of Faith - 2 (these are people who came to faith or returned to faith after a prolonged digression, and they did it by connection with our congregation ONLINE)
  • New (full) members to our congregation - 15!
  • Our professing membership of the church grew from 861 to 874!
  • Sadly, we also grieved the deaths of 16 of our church family and bid farewell to 2 others whose individual life journeys took them elsewhere.
Worship
  • Our average worship attendance in person from January through mid-march grew from 365 to 391.
  • And our online worship attendance from mid-March on swelled to an average 641 (some weeks are pushing 750 or more!)
Are you excited yet? Well hang on, it gets even better!

Sunday School and Christian Education
  • Youth participating in Confirmation: 2019 - 3; 2020 - 5
  • Weekly attendance in all ages of Sunday School classes: 2019 in person - 319; 2020 (mid-March forward online only) - 305
  • Participants in VBS: 2019 (in person) - 80; 2020 (online) - 65
  • Number of ongoing Sunday school classes offered: 2019 - 16; 2020 - 10 (most of the difference is in children's classes that were consolidated in larger age spans in the move to ZOOM)
  • Number of ongoing support and small group classes apart from Sunday school: 2019 - 16; 2020 - 16 (every single one made the jump to ZOOM!)
  • Number of short term small groups offered (not ongoing classes): 2019 (in person) - 6; 2020 - 11!

Mission Work
  • Number of UMVIM teams sent from the church: 2019 - 2; 2020 - 1
  • Number of community ministries for outreach, justice and mercy offered by our local church: 2019 - 14: 2020 - 14
  • Of the previous number, how many focus on global health: 2019 - 5; 2020 - 11
  • Of the same number, how many focus on engaging the poor/socially marginalized: 2019 - 10; 2020 - 14
  • Number of people served by ministries for outreach, justice and mercy: 2019 - 2,590; 2020 - 2511!
  • Beyond required Ezra reporting, our Director of Mission and Outreach Doug Northup's record keeping includes the additional information:
  • Community Ministries - 14 which are Beacon House, Ramps, Pantry, Helping Hands, Project transformation, Casseroles, Thanksgiving baskets, Christmas Stars, Youth summer internal mission, Farm to Family, Night Shelter, Mission Central, Depression Connection, Grief group
  • Number of people who participated from within the congregation: 352

I simply could not be more proud to be the pastor of such a remarkable congregation that took the lemons of 2020 and still made thirst-quenching lemonade, not only for itself but for thousands more. Yes, we've lived almost a year of the pandemic - but we have LIVED it, not simply sat by waiting for it to be over. You've been willing to engage in new ministries, new ways of connecting, new ways of worship and new ways of being - and in so doing, you've not only continued to BE the church, you've changed as a church to meet the needs of the moment! I hope after reading this, you are as proud of our congregation as I am - you should be!

2021 is already asking continued perseverance of us, but I have full confidence Martin UMC will meet the challenge. Obviously, it's who you are!
One last thing: someone is surely wondering why the powers that be decided to call a data management system Ezra. I confess, I do not know with certainly. However, I'd like to think it was named for an interesting circuit riding Methodist preacher named Ezra Adams. His life's work was to share the good news of God's redeeming love in Jesus Christ with those who needed to hear it. Sounds to me like the numbers we report to Ezra are really just indicators of that work as it continues today. Want to know more about Ezra Adams? Click Here

Grace and peace to you. I am truly blessed to be your pastor.

Lara
aka "The Vicar"
Apple Corps meets via Zoom at 9:30 every Sunday morning. The Zoom Meeting ID is 293-856-379 or click the link below to go directly to Zoom.
Branches meets via Zoom at 9:45 every Sunday morning. The Zoom Meeting ID is 213-928-173 or click the link below.

Genesis meets via Zoom at 9:30 every Sunday morning. The Zoom Meeting ID is 937 5166 7725 or click the link below.
"I CONNECT" meets via Zoom at 9:45 every Sunday morning.The Zoom Meeting ID is 963-430-720 or click the link below.



Journey meets via Zoom at 9:30 every Sunday morning.The Zoom Meeting ID is 429-051-096 or click the link below.
New Beginnings meets via Zoom at 9:45 every Sunday morning.The Zoom Meeting ID is 387-197-129 or click the link below .
The Way meets via Zoom at NOON every Sunday morning.The Zoom Meeting ID is 450-965-323 or click the link below for Zoom.
Sunday School for preschool and elementary school meets via Zoom at 9:45. To maintain a secure site for our children, please email Ms. Robin for login information before Sunday.

Prayer Concerns & Sympathy
Please continue to check the Facebook Prayer Page for daily updates or concerns. To be redirected to the Martin UMC Care Team Prayer Ministry page, click here:


Christian Love and Sympathy is extended to: Maggie Arnold on the death of her sister-in-law, Marilynn Morti.

Martin Community:
Jay Bradford, Rosemary Dawes, Barb Herbison, Emily Herbison, John Longyear, Melissa Norton, Marcie Smith, Catherine Yoro


Family & Friends:
Ryan Campanaro, Ronny Carter, Debra Crona, Jill Davis, Dennis DuBose, Lee Ericson, Bonnie Fuller, Charlotte Grimes and family, Carolyn Guice, Gloria Jackson, Diane Kunce, Abby Pierce, Deb Viney

Prayer Requests Specifically Regarding COVID-19:
Jan Batjer & friend Bill, Michele Chalk's grandson-in-law James McGee, Doris Fash, George & Beth Hawkinson, Jeannie King's 4 year old grandson Marcus, Ken Ruck, Richard Vega, Robert & Carmen White

Names remain for two weeks
unless otherwise requested.

Please remember to notify Deanna
regarding any changes to the prayer list.