By: Gary Hutchens
It has been my practice to devote one bulletin article near the beginning of most every year to look at the year gone by and consider possibilities of the year ahead. This month marks the beginning of my twenty-second year here at Sunny Slope. I continually thank God for blessing and, I believe, guiding me to work with this congregation. I laid to rest my first wife and met my present loving mate right here.
As members, we should never take for granted the special qualities that identify this church. We need to always pray to God for His blessings, guidance and protection for our church. No, Sunny Slope is not perfect, but this is a very special congregation. We are family! That aspect of our character has shined forth in extra special ways over these last two very strange and challenging years, dealing with COVID.
Complying with a mandate from our governor as a result of rising numbers of infections, hospitalizations and deaths in our area, beginning on March 22, 2020 and for eleven weeks following, no regular services were held in the building here at Sunny Slope. It was a wonderful, joyous day when we began meeting again for Sunday morning worship on the first Sunday in June of that year.
But for the rest of the year worship attendance was only a fraction of the normal totals before COVID. However, we live-streamed the worship service and increased our teaching and outreach via pod casts. Members watched, listened, picked up communion supplies and mailed in or dropped off their contributions. On September 27 we began Sunday morning Bible classes again, and in the first week in January, 2021 we began meeting again for Wednesday evening Bible classes.
Attendance gradually increased through the first half of last year, and on June 20 we topped 100 again for the first time. Since that date attendance has been above 100 almost every Sunday. The contribution has stayed strong throughout 2020 and 2021.
In spite of COVID God has blessed our congregation wonderful ways. New families and individual members have become a part of our Sunny Slope family. Souls have been baptized, and many from the community have visited after listening to our radio program.
We began our pod casting outreach in early 2019. We expected it to grow through 2020 with so many people isolating but looking for some virtual form of spiritual teaching. The numbers of downloads of our pod casts grew tremendously, almost reaching 20,000 by the end of 2020. We did not know what to expect in 2021, since things had opened back up so much. The response accelerated! Almost every month surpassed the numbers for the same month in 2020. November, 2021 saw the biggest number of downloads for any month, and December blew away that number. By the end of 2021 there had been 55,635 downloads of our pod casts since we began in 2019!
We did lose several members to death over the past two years, but none due to COVID. While approximately twenty five of our members have contracted the virus, scattered out over the last two years, thankfully I know of none who have had to be hospitalized.
There is much work to be done and many possibilities lay in front of us. You are important- Your involvement, Your prayers and Your encouragement. The blessings and victories are from God. It is He Whom we serve, and to Him be the glory. God is good all the time!
Gary L. Hutchens