What Was, What Is, and What Is to Come

What follows is my annual report, submitted to the Vestry and Membership of St. MIchael’s Episcopal Church, for the 2024 Annual Meeting.

Allow me to say a few words about the past, a few about the present, and a few about the future.

The Past: It was Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023 that I battled a traffic jam on I-70 at rush hour to join you all for worship for the first time. Before I even knew many of your names, I was making the sign of the cross in ashes on your foreheads. Then, come Sunday, you needed a priest and I needed a parish, so I came back. And with each passing week I got to know more of you, and you got to know more of me. In the process it became abundantly clear that God was at work, pairing us together like a cosmic matchmaker.

Almost immediately my old church-planting instincts kicked in. With Mindy’s approval, I worked up a new logo, threw together a new website, and worked with leadership to get a new livestream setup, thanks to a Deanery grant. Pretty soon we came to an arrangement where I could work half-time, instead of Sundays only, and I took on even more projects.

At that time I was still interviewing around, to look for a full-time priest position that might be a good fit for our family. But in the back of my mind, I knew Kansas City was our home, and St. Michael’s was where I really belonged. So I continued to work to that effect, hoping I could accomplish something memorable before having to move on. Indeed, there was good stuff happening. Tons of families showed up for our Easter Egg Hunt, and even though none of them joined us after that, we were seeing visitors here and there, and things were starting to gel.

Sometime in August it became obvious to Christina and me that God was setting things up to make it possible for us to stay put. And not only possible, but filled with possibility. She and I both had a vision for what we could do here, and that vision was becoming clearer and clearer. So I ended the search process, and expressed my intention to continue serving St. Michael’s for half my time, while freelancing in graphic design and marketing to make up the difference.

The Present: We are at the cusp now of formalizing this decision, and figuring out the details of what this working relationship will look like. But most of that is paperwork and buzzwords. The reality is this: God has called us together, to bring Hope and Healing to Independence and beyond, so here’s to…

The Future: St. Michael’s has always marched to the beat of a different drummer. It’s always been a little overlooked, a little underestimated. And that’s ok. In fact, it’s amazing. Because that’s what I see when I look at the person of Jesus, and the nature of his ministry. From the Nativity on, the work of God in the Incarnation did not happen in the limelight. It happened where everyone least expected it would.

This, to me, is St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. Nobody expects the revolution to start here. And even if it does, we won’t expect them to notice. It will be a quiet revolution. But it will be real. In some ways, the work of God in our midst will flow perfectly from who this church has always been—a little odd, a little unpredictable. But in other ways, God’s work may feel like a radical departure. It may throw us off balance, it may offend or confuse us. At first.

Because the divine Hope, and the divine Healing, that can only come from God, never fits inside our comfort zones. It always points outward. It always leads us into unfamiliar territory, stretching our consciousness, sometimes to the breaking point. And that includes me. 2023 was a stretching year for me, to put it mildly. And it has been for this parish as well.

There are lots of places we could hang out if we just wanted a comfortable social club. But we’re not there; we’re here. We’re in the Church—a place envisioned and established by the Creator of the Universe, for the purpose of healing the world. And this is our little corner of it. Everything we see when we look around was given to us by God, not for our own benefit, but to help us accomplish that mission.

Because we are surrounded by people who need healing, and who need hope. People are desperately lonely. People are ill-at-ease, in their bodies their minds and their spirits. And to be honest, to a large extent so are we. So we can join with our neighbors in confessing our need for the healing work of God, in a place like this. Thank you, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, for being here. Thank you for opening your hearts to me, and to everyone you encounter. Thank you for hearing the call of God to spread the good news, to welcome the alien and befriend the alienated, and saying yes.

Submitted by The Rev. Ryan Wiksell

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