2020 Annual Report

As we take a deep breath and reflect on 2020, we’re in awe of what God did through us as a church.

We had no idea this time last year what would take place across the world. Just three months into the year, we began to quarantine and host online-only services for the first time in StoryHeights’ history. Church life certainly changed amidst the pandemic. The words “socially distanced” and “flatten the curve” were part of our everyday lives, and we all became pros at eyeballing a six-foot distance. Though much changed in the past year, our mission never did — to connect people to God’s story so He can take them to new heights.

We now look back with gratitude for how you as a church were willing to pivot in a year full of the unexpected. We adapted to life online and a new way of doing church. We saw families grow closer together as we instituted a corporate sabbath, and focused on being The Church while at home. We served immediate needs in both our local community and our church family. Though we remained physically distanced, we stayed spiritually connected through the love of Christ.

We started our year ready to run forward into whatever God had for us. As we reflect, we can say we did just that. We thank the Lord for you, our church family, who made this year a special chapter in our church’s story. We pray each of you continues to march forward with a fresh wind and a fresh fire from God.

We had some BIG wins this year

Check out these stats of what we accomplished in 2020

  • 4 People were Baptized
  • Pre-Lockdown in-person attendance = Average of 121 individuals
  • Post-Lockdown in-person attendance = Average of 82 individuals
  • 102 People enrolled in Small Groups
  • 36 users (an estimated 54 people) tuning in to each online service
  • We produced 53 online services this year consisting of these sermon series:
    • Ready to Run
    • The God I Never Knew
    • The Grudge
    • Happy Trails
    • Planted
    • We Aint Done Yet
    • Faith Speaks
    • ABCs of Christianity
    • Citizens of Heaven
    • In God We Trust
    • Lost Art of Gratitude
    • Characters of Christmas

This past year brought a great deal of growth to our church and left us with an opportunity to press forward and do even more in 2021. While our in-person services look different now than they did at the beginning of 2020, we look ahead with the hope of Jesus that lives within us. As we safely fill our in-person services and continue to keep our online presence excellent, we’re expectant for God to take us to even greater heights.

Social distancing didn’t stop us from being social!

We were still able to do some incredible events this year

In February of 2020, we hosted our largest Kings and Priests Conference ever with almost 100 people in attendance. Looking back, we see how God used this weekend to prepare us to go the distance in our faith. Pastors Mike and Maria Durso from Saints Church in Brooklyn, NY spoke, and we were forever changed as we sang the song “Refiner” together, asking God to purify our hearts and lives so we can be refined for His use!

COVID didn’t stop up from serving!

The pandemic didn’t stop us from serving our church and our community! We were able to support our local hospital staff at the beginning of the pandemic by hosting a “park and pray” at Newton Wellesley Hospital. During Easter we allowed families to still get that picture with the Easter Bunny by hosting an Easter Drive Through where families could stay in their car and still have something fun to get out of the house to do. Around Christmas we were able to bless a single mother in our church battling cancer by giving her one of the things at the top of her Christmas list…a house decked out in Christmas lights! In addition, we launched and fully stocked our S.H.O.P (StoryHeights Outreach Pantry) with dry goods, food, and hard-to-find items to distribute to organizations working on distribution to families in need within the Greater Boston Area.

On top of all this we were also able to:

  • Send supplies to nursing homes.
  • Send grocery gift cards to families who had lost their jobs.
  • Donate shoes to frontline workers in our community.
  • Host free mental health office hours with licensed mental health counselor, Andre Perrault.
  • Start StoryHeights MicroSchools to serve the great school-age emergency caused by COVID.
  • Host a weekend retreat for local New England women pastors to strengthen local churches.

2020 Required Constant Creativity

Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches

Despite the financial climate of our world this past year, God was faithful to continue to strengthen our finances as a church.

We are grateful for your faithful giving!

We know this was a very difficult financial year for many people. We are humbled by your continued generosity! Thanks to you, StoryHeights stayed strong and stable throughout 2020. By summer, about 22% of churches said their decline in giving was between 30% and 50%. Almost a tenth of churches reported a drop of 75% or more in giving. Though that trend continues to reflect the national standard, we are grateful to report we only saw a 10% decrease in our lowest quarter of 2020. From this place of strength, we look forward to the expansion of our outreach programs through our brand new ReWrite ministry, which launched in Q1 of 2021. Our over-and-above giving this year will go to support the launch and work of this ministry.

Total Church Income

$540,236

ICF Tel Aviv

ICF Tel Aviv is a non-denominational church in Tel Aviv, Israel lead by Pastors Sergey and Natasha Mazhuga. They work hard to spread the name and love of Jesus in a relevant way in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Map 1040

Map 1040 is a missions organization lead by StoryHeights Overseer Luke Walters that aims to serve people located in the 1040 window by caring for local pastors and churches, running medical hospitals in hard to reach places and sharing the Gospel.

KKCJ

KKCJ is lead by Pastors Chad and Rebecca Holland and aims to be a Messiah-centered, Spirit-empowered, disciple-making church that shows the face of Jesus to Israel and to the nations.

Children's Cup

Children’s Cup is a non-profit that partners with life-giving local churches, and offers children hope in Jesus, empowers them to overcome hardship, and inspires them to change their community from the inside out.

StoryHeights is a part of the Association of Related Churches (ARC) network, which means we played a part in these amazing stats:

  • 65 couples went through the ARC Launch Intensive training.
  • 35 new churches opened in-person.
  • 22 churches opened online.
  • 6 churches were launched through ARC’s Global Networks.

All in all, nearly 12,000 people attended these launch day services, and 522 people gave their lives to Jesus!

See ARC's End of Year Report

On top of that, StoryHeights Church members sponsored 28 different children in Haiti, which totals up to $12,690 that was given out of your pockets and hearts!

Check Out What That Sponsorship Accomplished

Local Missions

Total Given: $47,673

StoryHeights Rewrite Ministry

$2119

With this money, we relocated our first member of the StoryHeights Rewrite Ministry, a single mother, and her daughter, to Massachusetts.

Single Mom Winter Wonderland Servolution

$840

With this money, we were able to deck the house of a single mother battling cancer in our church with lights, and provide a new bike for her child!

Homeless Housing

$3500

This money was given to Caritas Community and Brookview Housing to provide short-term housing for the homeless in Boston.

SOAR Boston

$1000

This money was given to SOAR Boston to provide short-term solutions to help gang members leave the lifestyle by taking care of small hurdles, like getting their birth certificate, driver’s license, and finding jobs.

Tennis Shoes for the Medical Community

$540

This money was used to provide 8 pairs of orthopedic tennis shoes for members of the medical community working during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Fiscal Sponsorship for the John Lewis Memorial Celebration

$1000

We partnered with the coordinator of the John Lewis Memorial Event, celebrating a great civil rights leader and his fights for racial justice, and loaned them $9,219.00 in order to host the event. Eventually, the money was paid back in full by other donors, and SH Foundation donated $1000 to this event.

Local Church Expansion

$1000

This money was given to C3 Boston as a seed towards their new building they’re moving into in spring 2021 and to rebrand to MyLibertyChurch in Quincy.

Congregation Benevolence

$13,505

With this money, we took care of each other by providing groceries, free mental health counseling sessions, checks to pay utilities and rent, and car notes to make it through the hardships caused by COVID.

Community Care

$13,643

With this money, we were able to do things like start StoryHeights MicroSchools, care for families who have children with special needs, launch and stock the S.H.O.P , provide free mental health services, send supplies to nursing homes and hospitals, donate shoes to frontline workers, and host a weekend retreat for local New England women pastors to strengthen local churches.

Savings

$10,525

Finally, as of the date of this report, we have $10,525.00 sitting in the SH Foundation account that was given by StoryHeights Church, saving for the housing portion to officially begin the ReWrite Ministry (negotiations are in process) as well as earmarked for future impact projects in 2021 to remember the poor, hurting and forgotten.

At StoryHeights Church we’re all about connecting people’s stories to God’s story so that their stories can be taken to new heights.

Here are a few of the incredible stories from our church this year.

During this past year, I relied greatly on StoryHeights and its community, and I cannot help but think to myself, “What if I had not shown up to my first service last September?” “What if I had never joined Sisterhood?” “What if I had never found this community that bolsters my faith on a daily basis?” I know for certain that my story would look a lot different than it does now, and for that, I am truly grateful.
Over the course of this past year, I’ve often found myself surmising that the trials and challenges I have faced are not that unique, that many others too faced unemployment, illness, and grief as a result of the pandemic. There is certainly a tendency for me to think that I am another face in the crowd, just another sheep in the flock, trying to weather these challenges like everyone else. While my experiences of suffering may look similar to many others during this time, I have come to realize that my relationship with Jesus is still unique and personalized to me. God did not look at my story, at my life over the past 12 months and say, “She’s just like all those other 25-year-old girls, I’ll speak to her exactly as I spoke to the others.” I’ve seen and learned, God still comforted me, still befriended me, still loved me in a very personal, individualized, and knowing way. Understanding that the Father’s love for me is not a reaction to my circumstances but rather a celebration of who He has made me into has elevated my faith journey and ultimately my life in such a profound way over this year.
I have come to understand in this past year, that sometimes the best way for me to be in relationship with God is to simply show up. As the pandemic hit and I felt very isolated and lost in my life, all I could do was show up and sit in the presence of the Lord. I did not have the right words, the perfect understanding, or really any vision of how God was using this time to shape my story. Often, I even doubted that He still had His hand on my life. And yet, I trusted that simply showing up in prayer and in faith would be enough. This surrendering of control has shown me over the past year that my story is not about perfectly responding to God’s call on my life. Rather, it is about showing up in complete surrender and trusting that God’s plan for my life will unfold as it is meant to.

In 2020 my story was taken to new heights by understanding the power of prayer more. In the early part of the year, I felt this pull to “get right with God”. This nudge brought me and my family back to StoryHeights where we were welcomed with open arms as if we had never even left.

The pastoral leadership personally shared testimonies in their own lives throughout 2020 that made me reflect on my own relationship with Jesus. If I’m being honest, even though I’ve been in church the majority of my life, one year ago I’m not sure I even had a relationship with Jesus. I felt stuck and unsure of what I believed in. But God has done an amazing 180 in my life. After we had our daughter, and through the local church I have renewed my faith and truly see God’s love and grace on full display in my life. I can’t wait to see what new heights 2021 brings at StoryHeights and I’m so grateful for this church!

I entered 2020 carrying the weight and trauma of a difficult few years. Delivering pre-term babies (one of which spent six long stressful weeks in the NICU), dealing with family illness and tragedy, and managing the burden of suicidal clients and family. I thought those years were going to be the hardest I ever had to endure and welcomed 2020 in with great hope. Though, the stress magnified. Raising two little kids while launching another off to college, supporting family back in Jamaica who can no longer work, coupled with the increasing pandemic stress. All the toll became to accumulate. I was sinking deep into a place that was not healthy. I thought perhaps God is punishing me, and maybe I deserved it. Perhaps, my family is cursed! Perhaps the sins of my ancestors are being repaid through me experiencing all this seemingly never-ending pain. I was not in a good place in my faith.

One afternoon in the early days of the pandemic, I took a long drive, just to get out of my house to clear my head. I remember receiving a random call from Pastor Crystal, saying that she was thinking of me. I broke down crying over the load I was baring. It felt so immense and unmanageable. She prayed for me on the phone and reassured me that my Storyheights family was there to support me. That was enough to recenter me then. I tuned-in to every single online service during the mandated in-person service closure. As the year progressed, I battled with more life-altering decisions. I took the necessary, and frightening step of filing for a divorce. For me, when StoryHeights was allowed to reopen its physical doors, it was a miracle. Going to Sunday services was, and has been a form of respite, solace, peace, in the middle of great uncertainty.

Honestly, although I was showing up most Sundays and leaning into God more than I ever have, I still felt something missing. Despite all the real and anticipated financial burdens that came with this year (the cost of a litigious divorce, daily living expenses, assisting my visually impaired uncle, taking care of my three girls, and sending my oldest into her first semester of college out of state) I was beginning to question how I allocated my finances. I had reasoned with myself that the monies I send to some of these necessities are charitable in their nature and that God would understand if I didn’t tithe. After all, I was already giving so much to so many in my personal and professional life! There was a sermon in the fall of 2020, about putting God first in your finances. It really resonated with me and clarified God’s instructions to us as believers. After church, I went home and went down on my knees and prayed to God saying that I am believing that if I follow His instructions, He will faithfully meet my needs. The following day on one of “sanity” walks in the woods near my house, I saw an email saying among other things- “We would like to send you $4,000 in emergency funds” to assist with my oldest’s tuition. My immediate response was to forward the email to Pastor Crystal (after thanking Jesus of course) to tell her of the miracle that just happened, so quickly after I made the decision to put God first as she had preached the day before. That was the start of the change of my mindset.

In December in one of Pastor Tyler’s sermons, he preached that “God sends us his very best when are at our worst.” I was being bombarded with messages left, right, and center, through the preaching, teaching, songs, and Bible readings and the many “coincidences” that kept happening, telling me that God has something great for my life. I now realize that although I was going to church and clearly searching and yearning for healing and a break from the constant battles in my life, my challenge was that I was still believing a big lie—that Jesus must somehow be forsaking me and is still punishing me. It was time to break free of these deep lies. Jesus has never left me or forsaken me, or my family. In fact, I have walked into 2021 with a new perspective. I am reframing my struggles as I am realizing that what has been missing is that I have been fighting against the struggles in my life. I have not been taking note of the doors that have been opening through it all. Perhaps, the struggles have been the Lord impelling me to draw closer, lean in more. What’s missing is that I have not put my ENTIRE faith in Jesus! My new not so silent daily mantra is begging God to purify me through His refining fire, “Here I come running and I won’t look back!” I truly believe that through the continued support, love, teaching, and encouragement of StoryHeights Church, coupled with putting my entire trust in the Lord for the first time,  my life has completely changed forever. He will continue to take care of me, and my family, and take our stories to even greater heights! I could not have made it through these gloomy days without the support and love of this church. I plan to go forward into 2021 singing loudly, “I belong to You-You can have my heart & Great is your faithfulness to me.”

When big and unexpected events happen to our lives we often express ourselves with outward happiness or sadness and move on to either welcome this new transition or brace for impact.  2020 brought a lot of both for many at StoryHeights.

My big and unexpected story began when I found out I wasn’t going to be working for the company that I’d spent the last 21 years with.  I usually take these things mostly in stride and will automatically start trying to think of a fix or a workaround. Being in a close-knit community like StoryHeights we’ve all had to pray for someone who’s been placed on this same path and way more often than not there’s a success story that we get to celebrate.   This, however, made me stop to figure out how to collect myself.  After a brief mourning period, I started to do the things that the freshly unemployed do.  I began with updating a severely un-updated resume, I reached out to industry contacts and started to add and follow everyone on LinkedIn.  While working through my to-do list it dawned on me that I wasn’t actually praying for direction.

Praying for guidance and asking for prayer isn’t something that comes naturally to me.  Whether it’s pride, ignorance, or just a muscle I don’t exercise… I think of prayer last.  When my wife Brandi brought up that we needed to pray during one of our plotting and planning talks I felt deep embarrassment that it didn’t occur to me first.  So we started praying and I even asked our StoryHeights men’s small group to pray for God to give me a well-lighted path.  We all know by now what you think you know and what God has planned for you can be two vastly different notions.  New opportunities within the Church started to form and from those, I had a new career in front of me.  Having StoryHeights as part of our home has been a true blessing, especially in this past year.  I’ve been able to witness how God has provided unimaginable strength to face a horrible tragedy. There’s still a lot of work for me to do, but I look forward to it with His name on my heart.

For me, “bittersweet” is the word the best describes 2020. While there certainly was bitterness (on top of all that pandemic insanity and uncertainty), my close friend was diagnosed with cancer, I was dealing with family drama that had taken a turn for the worse, and my employer was planning a massive layoff. Thankfully I was not going to be laid off, but that meant that while managing my daughter Vivian‘s virtual schooling plus juggling all my normal single mom responsibilities, I was going to be doing the work of five people. Can you say, STRESS?! But you know what? By the grace of God, I didn’t actually feel stressed. Despite all the fires that had started, I had peace knowing that God is in control. He’s got my back. So why should I waste energy worrying about tomorrow? Let tomorrow worry about itself.
Towards the beginning of the shutdowns, Pastor Crystal called to see how I was doing. I remember telling her that I am well, thankful for the extra quality time with Vivian, for having a secure job, etc. After hanging up, it occurred to me how insensitive that must’ve sounded when so many people were really struggling. But I also thought, wait, isn’t it a good thing that I have peace despite the storm swirling around me? Good that I’m focusing on the positives? Doesn’t God tell us to always be joyful and thankful in all circumstances?  I wanted to stay focused on the blessings, on the “sweet.”
I didn’t always have a sunny attitude in the midst of tough times. Because of my relationship with God, and the growth I’ve had in that relationship since coming to StoryHeights Church and continuing my journey to “take my story to new heights,” I have a new perspective and new resolve to focus on my blessings.