The State of the New Creation (2021)

An address given to the parish of New Creation Church (Anglican) on December 12, 2021 at the church’s Annual Parish Business Meeting. By Fr. Justin Clemente.

I. Looking Back


If you can believe it, we began 2021 completely online. We were able to quickly come back to in-person worship, but it was amidst so much uncertainty. That uncertainty ebbed somewhat in the spring and summer, but the world and society certainly remain changed.

As I look back on the last year, what I most celebrate is the faithfulness of our God and the faithfulness of our people. Many in our parish have remained faithful in their time, their talent, and their treasure. While giving has not grown, it has remained steady, which is far more than some other churches can say. In fact, some of you may not know this, but one of the reasons we could not get a Paycheck Protection loan is because we could not demonstrate the necessary impact on income from COVID. That’s impressive.

2021 was all about small gains and small wins. In no particular order, here are some of the things we should all take a moment to celebrate:

Please understand that these are in no way exhaustive – they are just examples of things we can all celebrate together.

  • Working and worshipping every Wednesday as a parish at the soup kitchen and Midday Prayer. Serving side-by-side with people like Phyllis, Brian, Jane, Sean, my kids, and the people of PCH.
  • Listening to Mae’s flute solos, seeing Mack continue to grow into his potential, and seeing Lucy take her first steps as a vocalist.
  • Watching saints quietly work and care for our sacred space.
  • Being prepared for the worship of Almighty God through the classical pieces of Jon Vroman.
  • Watching Dave Breisch grow as a Senior Warden and lay preacher with each new “opportunity.”
  • Learning to befriend the lonely at Walnut Towers with people like Brian, Jane, Sean, and my children.
  • Seeing Sally’s diligence as a Parish Administrator and Melissa’s care as our Treasurer.
  • Serving grateful and hungry saints the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Listening to Melanie preach her own sermon at the kids’ time. Time with all the kids on Sunday morning before the ministry of the Word.
  • Being taught how to die well by John & Joyce Archer.
  • Preparing Noah Vroman for his first Holy Communion.
  • The faith of our Confirmands and those Received into our Church this year.
  • The joy of Lydia’ Baptism.
  • The faithfulness and perseverance of Brooke as we have served together this year.
  • Helping Garrett & Stephanie grow in their discernment of God’s work in Chambersburg.
  • No lasting and widespread division in the body over COVID.
  • Men and women learning, growing together, and loving the vocations God has given them in our Family Vocation Renew Groups.
  • Hearing my kids say that they loved Brian and Dave’s Bible Study because it was “not like my classes.”


The only exhortation that I would offer in our “look back” is that across the wider Body of Christ, what we see is that, at times, COVID has been used as an excuse to leave the church. My hope is that all we have gone through up to this point would make our love for the Body only that much deeper, richer, and personally meaningful to each of us. Remember our theme for 2021: “Anchored in Christ, Persevering Together.”

II. Looking Forward


I celebrate the ways in which God is expanding the impact and the reach of our ministry in creative ways. As I have said many times lately, I believe we have good seeds in the ground. We are waiting for God to give us a good harvest. Even as we need to strengthen the work here (more on that in a moment), my prayer is that God makes this congregation a mothering community to those who want to plant, lead, and serve churches like ours.

Above all, I celebrate those who are stepping out to explore new works in the Lord. I celebrate Garrett & Stephanie, and all the building interest around Chambersburg. I celebrate Dave & Sally, who are willing to step out once again, and see what the Lord has for the community of Frederick. I celebrate what God is doing right down the road in the new discipleship group at Walnut Towers. That will be a tenet led group focusing on biblical friendship.

I celebrate those who are stepping into new roles, serving the body in essential and often unseen ways. There so much to do, and so many ways to serve God in our parish. Lastly, I celebrate the small and slender blades of new and deepened faith in Christ that are growing right here in our pasture. Thanks be to God.


We are a parish in great need. I believe we are entering into a critical season of the New Creation’s life together. In 2020, I moved forward and committed my full time to our work as a parish. I am thankful I did. I did not only walk up to the edge, I walked over the edge, trusting God. I could not have prepared for or imagined the challenges we would deal with up to the very present hour. These challenges have created new obstacles and changed the church and societal landscape in a way that will continue into and through this new decade.

But thankfully, these obstacles do not stop our God. The power of the Gospel is not chained! Neither is his ability to build our parish. But we cannot be disengaged. Merely attending worship does not make one engaged in our mission together. In our present context, a small parish that does not deeply believe in its mission from our Lord will not survive, let alone thrive. We must trust him wholeheartedly. We must not lean on our own understanding, our own giftedness, our own pocketbook, or other human means. We must trust to God. The first way that we can do that is by devoting ourselves to prayer and fasting. Starting with the beginning of the year, I want to invite each of you into that. During 2022, our Midday Prayer service will exclusively focus on our parish, our community, and our new exploratory groups I mentioned earlier. In addition, I invite you to take Wednesday (or part of Wednesday) as a day of fasting as the Lord’s directs. Prayer and fasting are the pebbles we must put in the shoe of our self-sufficiency. We want to specifically pray for two things:

  • Funds: Praise God for our ministry partners! As many of you know, the Lord continues to raise up faithful ministry partners. All giving is important, but many of the heavy givers are churches. We need to realize that those ministry partners are time bound. Churches cannot support indefinitely. The goal has always been to move toward self-sustainability. While we have met our ministry partner goals, parish giving through numerical growth has not increased as anticipated. That’s no one’s fault, it just is what it is. This means that our padding has been worn away. At this point, we need pray for growth to sustain our life as a parish. No, numbers are not everything. Good or great numbers don’t even mean a parish is healthy, but we do have to be able to sustain our life together, and that includes care and compensation for full-time leadership. Funds facilitate ministry, and that’s what we should pray for.
  • Laborers & Leaders: I believe we need to pray for God to send and raise up gifted, called, and available people in at least the following areas: kids initiatives, outreach initiatives, audio & video support, and teaching.

Next, we ourselves must work. From the beginning, I have tried to build a culture where the Priest does not and cannot do everything. Pastors are not people who do it all. Pastors help others do it with them. I want to lead the way and be an example, not a lone leader. We need to continue to build that kind of culture. Let’s talk specifics:

  • Vestry: At the end of 2021, there will be three people on the Vestry. That is not sustainable. We will be operating on a deep exception, not only to State’s expectations for churches incorporated in Maryland, but to our own established Bylaws. Most of all, it means that no one is being developed as a leader in that context and it means that your voice isn’t present in the way it needs to be on our parish council.

It is essential that we remedy this. The plan of our current Vestry is to operate on an exception until the Spring when we will hold a special election. If people do not step up to serve at that time, I hope you see how deeply that jeopardizes the future and mission of our parish. Yes, there, are many other things one can do in the parish, but the Vestry is essential. We cannot have a parish without a functioning Vestry.

  • Invitation: reflect on this question: when is the last time I invited someone to church, small group or Sunday School? For some of you, it may be yesterday, for others, a year. We have our Welcome Table furnished with resources for you to use for just that purpose! And, in the coming months, I want us to circle back and talk about how we tell the stories of this parish and how we can use them to effectively invite others into our life in Christ. The decision to be invitational, open, and, yes, evangelistic, as a parish is one that must be conscious and deliberate as part of our culture. I want to see that continue, but you must be the ones to respond and put it into action.
  • Stewardship: We’ve talked about treasure, but consider this: are each of us in a place where we are good stewards of our time and our talent? Does the pace and commitments of our life make it possible to be deeply engaged in our life together?
  • Fellowship: I know COVID and other circumstances are still at play here, but, ask yourself, when is the last time you had another family over for lunch or dinner? How deep are you willing to go in your fellowship here? Last year’s study on Family Vocation is a great example. I got so much out of that study and I was so encouraged by my fellowship with the men of the parish. But by the time we ended that study, we were down about 60% of where we started. It’s my hope that we will do better in the year to come. That our groups will not only persist, but grow as more folks are invited.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is where we’re at. There is so much to celebrate and there is so much to do! Let’s not get flat-footed or worn out. Above all, let’s each commit to trust in the Lord and work in his vineyard with the hands, feet, and mouth he has given each of us. I say again: there are good seeds in the ground. So “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)