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We are in the part of the year where I tend to feel the most anxiety.  

Financially, October and November are often our leanest months as a parish. And this year, especially, looking ahead to 2023 seems full of financial risk. In many years, the Christmas Market and year-end giving let us meet the new year better than projections appear. And overall, I tend to think it is good for us as Chrsitians to feel a little lean sometimes. I try to take it as a reminder to trust in God: that if we are engaged in God’s work then God will provide the resources. The trick is that God’s resources don’t always look quite like what I wish they would.  

These later months of autumn also mark a time when the amount of work still to do before year-end looks like a mountain of unfinished tasks. “Christmas is coming!” proclaims store shelves and excited friends on Facebook, but to me it feels ominious and not joyful at this stage. So many things to handle before Christmas: Advent worship and children’s programs and year-end budgets and Christmas Eve worship plans and presents and baking (so much baking happens in my house…)! Of course, Christmas will come and it will be lovely and the work that goes into it will get done (or not done… the beauty of traditions is that they are adaptable). Every year, it all works out. And the pile of unfinished tasks will likely carry with me all through life and that’s okay, too. 

Knowing this is a pattern in me and in the life of parishes (it isn’t just St Stephen’s) helps me find my calm. I’ve also found the Bishop’s Retreat for Clergy in early November to be helpful.  The presenters vary in quality, but Loon Lake Retreat Centre in the UBC Forest near Maple Ridge is beautiful and most of the retreat is conducted in silence. Even when I take a bag of work to accomplish while I’m there, the space helps me settle and feel refreshed enough to make it through to the new year. It is a thing that “strengthens my heart” for the work we do together. I wonder what strengthens your hearts as we await the coming of the Christ child. I am looking forward to hearing about your practices and experiences.