As the worship attendance averages indicate, ELPC is off to an excellent start in 1997. Our Easter Sunday worship at 11:00 AM drew 685 this year, compared to 509 last year. At the 8:30 AM service we had 148 compared to 37 last year. 1997 worship attendance up by more than 20% over last year -is but one good sign among many that we are rising above our troubles of recent years. Our focus, thank God, is once again where it belongs on faithfully responding to the exciting challenges of ministry and mission that lie within and all around our Cathedral of Hope.
Other current signs of promise include the wonderfully successful concert by Chorovaya Akademia (the inspiring men's choir from Moscow); inspiring and well-received Holy Week Services; the fabulous ELPC and Family Resource Center youth production of Godspell; excellent attendance at our Sunday adult education classes and special Lenten offerings; pledges and offerings coming in over budget in 1996 with the same pattern continuing into 1997; an encouraging increase in the real dollar value of our endowment this past year; and our winning of the denomination's 1997 Ecumenical Service Citation to be presented at the General Assembly in June. Family Resource Center programs are solid and growing; music and arts offerings abound; our new Gifts of the Spirit Bookstore has taken off; the ELPC authors' booksigning was a great success; and our new Cathedral of Hope Labyrinth continues to draw interest.
All of this underlines for me the conviction stated in our Strategic Plan: "God has a good plan for our congregation and grants us the vision and the gifts to bring it to pass." Our experience continues to demonstrate that the directions laid out by our 1994 Strategic Plan are basically sound. The variety of our worship services, for example, accounts in part for the substantial increase in weekly worship attendance 53% greater for the first quarter of 1997 than for the first quarter of the year ten years ago. The Taize service, now five years old, is proving especially popular with an increase of 50% in just the last year!
Some aspects of our Strategic Plan that have been neglected for a while will soon be getting back on track. It has now been two years since we have offered one of our popular annual Colloquia/Workshops featuring a distinguished speaker/preacher. Our last one was in the Spring of 1995 with the Rev. Fannie Erickson of the Riverside Church in New York City focusing on spiritual healing. This coming October 11-12 we have scheduled Dr. Eric Carlson, Senior Astronomer Emeritus of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and an ordained Presbyterian Elder from Evanston, Illinois. Eric was a very popular speaker for our very first Colloquium in 1989 and he will again have much to offer us in exploring current developments in cosmology and their implications for our faith and spirituality.
For me, all of this good news is continuing evidence of the power of the resurrection and the presence of the Living Christ within us and among us. Thanks be to God!
Robert A. Chesnut
The Cathedral of Hope