Annual Congregational Meetings (ACM) are important events in the life of any congregation. They are times for taking stock of past performance and charting the way forward. These are challenging times for churches. Changing cultural values, expectations and priorities are influencing peoples’ commitment to church. Culture is not only competing with church for peoples’ time, talents and treasure, but it is apparently winning. The increasingly declining attendance at church compared to the filled stands at games on Sundays and the large numbers of people present at events planned by various organizations and interest groups on Sundays would seem to give credence to the assertion that culture is winning the “war of souls”. Another of the many challenges churches face is one that is directly related to the one mentioned above. It is the struggle for financial health. Most churches share this problem. Here again culture is winning. Organizations are constantly bombarding us with unabashed appeals in the electronic and print media for money. We don’t hear of any of them going under because of lack of funding. On the other hand, churches are closing down because they cannot meet their financial obligations. These are some of the realities that our ACM gives opportunity to address. Ultimately it is a question of stewardship and mission. Frankly, it is a question of stewardship in the narrowest sense of the word; it is about money.
In its more than two hundred years of life Bethesda has been a centre from which the gospel is preached, the sacrament administered, people are baptized, confirmed, married, buried and prayed for. People have found and continue to find community, friendship, support, acceptance and love in this place. Our outreach programs touch the lives of countless numbers of people all over the world, directly and indirectly. Our presence in this community for more than two centuries is a statement of God’s presence here. These and more happen only because our members seek to fulfil God’s mission in a faithful way.
We have a clear sense of who we are and what is our mission. Most of our members are involved in the life in one way or another. In fact many are involved in many ways. This is because they are committed to this church. A good number of our members travel from far distances to come here just to be a part of Bethesda. People travel from Keswick, Sharon, Uxbridge, Goodwood, Stouffville, Scarborough, Etobicoke and other parts of Toronto, and now even Niagara. Certainly Bethesda means much to us. Our ACM gives us an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to God’s mission through this church. Ours is the responsibility to ensure that this church will be here so that future generations will enjoy it as much as we do. The challenges may be great. The God we worship is greater. We can meet the challenges and rise above them with faith, commitment and hard work.