Good Morning, my name is Matt Gellner.
My family and I have only been members at A&HT since 2012, so I do not have years of ministry to talk about. However, I have seen God, and He has been more present in my life, since the first time I walked into this building. We have all heard the saying. “God speaks in mysterious ways.” I for one have witnessed this many times throughout my life. And every once in a while, the presence of God is so strong, it is almost as if he is shouting at us. I had one of those amazing experiences when I found Ascension and Holy Trinity.
Let’s go back to early spring of 2012. My wife was pregnant with our first child, and we had spent a few months visiting every Episcopal and Lutheran church in the northern Greater Cincinnati area. Both my wife and I had strong upbringings in the church, but through college and then our 20s, we had strayed from regularly attending. With a child on the way, we felt a need to find a good church in which to raise our kids, so that they could grow up with the same Christian faith that we continued to hold. We had narrowed our search to two Episcopal churches and were pretty close to deciding, when for some reason, I felt the need to try one more. I came to A&HT alone that morning, as Lisa was not feeling well. As I sat in the back of the church listening to the sermon, I remember thinking how familiar the priest looked. I couldn’t place it, but I felt like I knew him. I admit that I cannot recall what the sermon was that Sunday, but I do remember being touched by the message. I remember thinking that I would like to listen to a powerful sermon like that every Sunday. As I walked out that day, I shook the priests hand and saw the recognition in his eyes that somehow he knew me as well. And then, as I told him my name, he took a step back and said, “Matt Gellner, from West Virginia? We went to Peterkin together when we were kids!” I was absolutely shocked, and excited. I went home that Sunday and told my wife, “I’m not positive, but I think I may have found our church today.” I explained to her what had happened, and she agreed that it seemed to be more than just a coincidence.
We met Father Eric and his family for dinner one evening shortly after, and we began to realize that this was definitely not just coincidence. You see, church camp was not our only connection. Father Eric and I had grown up in small communities, 20 miles apart in West Virginia; his wife and I were in the same dorm together freshman year and had many of the same friends, and even attended the same church and youth group. And somehow, there we were together, 20 years later, and 300 miles from where our paths had last crossed. It was pretty apparent to both Lisa and me that God was saying, “This is where you belong!” The message was too clear to ignore.
After spending five years in this parish I now know why we were meant to be here. This Church and Congregation are alive with God’s love. I see it in each and every one of you, and you share that love with everyone around you. I grew up in a small town Episcopal church that struggled just to keep its doors open. Later my wife and I attended for a short time, a church that was stable financially, but could not sustain opportunities for Christian growth or outreach. A&HT is not one of those churches. Ascension and Holy Trinity is THRIVING! Not only is this church feeding its members, it is successfully sharing God’s love with others. I absolutely love our Vision: “To be a vital and growing faith community, with overflowing worship services and Christian growth opportunities. A church filled with compassion-centered ministries through which all find a place and take God’s love into the world.” These two sentences clearly vocalize the passion and dedication this congregation has for sharing the love of God within the church, and without.
We have a nursery, Sunday School, Choir, Christian formation, we participate in Interfaith Hospitality Network, community dinners, and Matthew 25 Ministries, just to name a few. There are so many different opportunities here for self-enrichment, and for helping others, that it is easy for anyone to get involved. For my family this is a blessing. Having two small children, my wife and I have contributed as we are able, and still feel like we are making a difference. This has enabled us to grow spiritually and enjoy the fulfillment of sharing God’s love. And more importantly it has created the desire to give more of ourselves to the church and to everyone we come in contact with.
And so I ask you to join me in pledging this year. Pledge to feed yourself spiritually. Pledge to help fill your family and the rest of the congregation with the Holy Spirit by participating in worship services and the many Christian growth opportunities that are offered. Pledge to help others so that we, as a church, can continue to take God’s love into the world. Amen.