2020 may feel like
the year everything changed.
One thing DIDN’T change.
God’s unconditional love.
I think we can all agree, 2020 did not turn out like we expected. What looked to be a banner year to celebrate 40 years of ministry, turned into online worship, 6 feet of distance, face masks, and staying home. I was amazed at your faithful witness to the Gospel as our world experienced loss, pain, struggle, and death. You responded with grace, love, and mercy offering time, service, and resources in new ways. You showed the world the Abiding Presence of Christ.
As the new year unfolds before us, we place our faith in God who has been faithful to us the whole time. We continue to worship where we are, knowing that there will come a time when we return, in person, to this “Place of Grace.” Until then, our faith in God is seen and felt through you, a “Community of Grace,” seeking God and serving others in new ways.
For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and work for God’s good pleasure.Philippians 2:13
Through all the challenges – closures, staying at home, fear and uncertainty,
the people of Abiding Presence remain faithful in our mission.
Seek God. Serve Others.
We find our purpose when we Seek God’s word in Worship and Learning Together
Worship Goes Online
Changes brought on by the pandemic were markedly noticed in our worship life. The practically overnight pivot to providing an online worship service was supported by creative staff and volunteers. Holy Week and Easter felt very different, but we celebrated the risen Christ, worshipped each week in a new way, and even after a last minute pivot, we celebrated Christ’s birth … together.
Our thanks to Kent Kirkman for offering his video equipment, time, and expertise in those first weeks. Memorial funds helped with the purchase of new cameras and video software. Reserves funded installation, wiring, and a remodel of the now “multimedia” space in the sanctuary. Chip Wilson has been behind the cameras since July. We have the foundations in place to pivot again from prerecorded worship to live stream and are looking for volunteers to help with both sound and video.
Closed – OPEN – Closed Again
When we suspended in person worship a Return to Worship Task Force immediately began to study all guidelines and make plans for a safe return. Protocols were established. Worship Support Team volunteers were recruited and trained. A reservations system supported the reduced capacity level. Our thanks to all who remain diligently watching the statistics. We look forward to once again gathering in person together.
Finding our musical voice
Music plays a vital role in our Lutheran faith and spiritual experience. Shelbie and Sandy imaginatively sustained opportunities for small ensembles, soloists, special music for our festival days, and treated the congregation to recitals of various kinds through YouTube productions. In December, three unique Noels at Noon concerts and a Hand Bell concert highlighted the season.
With all aspects of a pastoral call committee on hold , the congregation was blessed with worship leadership, sermons and congregational care from Pastor Bill Swantner January – August.
Exec Council jumped on the prospect of hosting a pastoral intern as the perfect opportunity for both APLC and the future church. Stefan Swanson joined us in August for his final year in preparation for his ministry.
Sandy Musk marks 20 years at Abiding Presence
We gave thanks for Miss Sandy’s ministry with our elementary school age singers and chimers and as sanctuary choir accompanist. Sandy and Shelbie delighted us with a recital of piano and organ duets to celebrate Sandy’s 20th anniversary as Music Associate.
Adult Faith Formation Goes Online
With a variety of study topics, adults studied scripture, dug into topical book discussions, watched and discussed video presentations, and asked questions. The pandemic may have separated us physically, but it has not prevented us from seeking God in learning. In fact, engagement in online and hybrid offerings has grown with some groups doubling in size over previous in person programs.
Confirmation and High School Youth
Youth already familiar with the digital world and virtual school, easily shifted to online lessons and gatherings hosted by Mike and Pastor Steve. In August, we celebrated with 10 of our youth as they affirmed their baptism.
Through much prayer and planning, Vacation Bible School became a completely online experience. Volunteers prepared videos of story and lessons, crafts, and singing and then packed “at home” kits of supplies and supporting materials. Together, we encouraged our youngest to love and serve their neighbors no matter who or where they are. This digital experience reached far beyond our just our APLC community.
Family Faith Formation
Sunday School lessons were offered by email. Expanding on the success of the digital VBS experience, Family Faith Formation days gave monthly opportunities to learn about God’s love.
We live our baptismal call to Serve Others by supporting and encouraging each other in this community of grace and sharing the Good News of the gospel in the greater community.
Welcoming New Members
Abiding Presence welcomed 26 new members in 2020. The fall class participated in a hybrid orientation and were received into membership in a unique video affirmation of faith.
Members and outside groups are creatively using the outdoor chapel area as a new meeting place for a variety of socially distanced interactions and new connections are being made online.
Caring for Each Other
Members of the Prayer Chain commit to confidential regular prayer for those who have special needs. When the campus was closed for in person worship, Pastor Steve recruited 44 member volunteers to act as Phone Care Givers to keep our community informed and cared for through phone calls, email, text messages. Stephen Ministers provide confidential Christian care for members of our congregation going through a difficult time. Members provided meals for families in quarantine or recovering from other issues.
We found some ways to gather safely with a drive-by welcome for Stefan, a few small group projects, and a bring your own picnic. The highlight of the year may have been the Christmas Carol Singalong. With increased COVID numbers right before Christmas, creative minds pivoted all the plans for outdoor Christmas Eve worship to a delightful evening led by the Worship Band, Miss Sandy, and surprise “Face in the hole” nativity fun. Were we gathered under the Bethlehem star? The once in a lifetime convergence of planets created a brilliant light that night.
The people of Abiding Presence generously support our community mission partners even when called to serve differently.
- Monthly offerings of dozens of cookies changed to WEEKLY gifts of peanut butter sandwiches for Haven for Hope through the summer.
- We sent 121 Quilts, 161 School Kits and 140 Personal Care Kits to Lutheran World Relief.
- The quilting group repurposed a fleece blanket project and donated 40 blankets to The Children’s Shelter and began a joint project with youngsters in great need finding purpose in sewing and creating quilts to share with others in great need.
- Thanksgiving food and Christmas gifts were provided to 50 families finding support through Transplants for Children.
- We delivered 60+ personal hygiene kits plus many extra items to Haven for Hope.
- Texas Ramp Project – Continues to change the lives of the homebound with monthly ramp builds.
- Abiding Presence hosted quarterly blood drives for South Texas Blood & Tissue Center providing lifesaving gifts.
- Crafty card makers gave us a means to provide a year end financial donation to our mission partners in the form of a gift card in honor of friends and loved ones.
APLC Day School
This ministry of Abiding Presence felt the impact of COVID intensely. We remain committed to supporting our Day School financially and prayerfully as they shape and mold the youngest among us. Pastor Steve and Stefan enjoy leading their weekly chapel and sharing stories of Jesus’ love for us all. Through it all our Day School remains accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) which insures excellence in early childhood education.
Reaching the Community
As COVID forced all of us into the online world for worship and communications, your staff had fun experimenting with all kinds of video, facebook, and email messages to keep everyone informed and even entertained. Check our YouTube channel for any videos you might have missed or want to see again.
It also became clear we had work to do in support of our digital presence. A logo refresh that was part of the APLC 4.0 planning was finally introduced with a new website launched in November. In order to help more people “find” Abiding Presence on the digital highway, we’ve updated our Google business page, other church listing sites, and have new visitor follow up tools in place. Our Facebook page has become a central space for community engagement and news. Please like and follow us @APLCSA.
Continuing our Ministry
The Stewardship team encouraged a financial challenge as part of this year’s Lenten journey to donate $1 per day to reduce our mortgage principal balance. The COVID closure happened right in the middle of Lent. Even in those days of complete uncertainty, your generosity surpassed the goal five-fold. An additional $32,670.18 payment was made in 2020. Reducing the remaining mortgage term by five months, we look forward to final payoff in March 2024.
The fall generosity message called on us to recognize God as giver of all gifts, that we individually and collectively are gifted with time and talents, and, yes, money. And God calls us to use those gifts in ways that expand God’s kingdom on earth. #BeTheGift who shares the Good News with your generosity in giving and serving.
Thank you for your continued generosity. Your financial gifts make the difference for all who learn of Christ’s love through the ministry of Abiding Presence.
40th Anniversary Celebration
2020 marked 40 years of ministry in and through Abiding Presence. Plans were well underway to commemorate the anniversary when the pandemic caused a complete campus closure. The idea behind the title “APLC 4.0” is even more apropos as we find ourselves in this now very digital world. Your phone, your computer, your apps, are regularly updated to a new version.
What will APLC 4.1 look like?
How will we serve each other and the community in new ways? While it may be some time before we return to this place, we look forward to all that God has planned for this Community of Grace where All are Welcome.
Links are provided below for Membership and Financial Summaries
for a “By The Numbers” look at the past year.