Good morning to you, Church!
It’s real fall out there– nippy and frosty this morning! Thankfully the sun is shining today, but jack frost is still frolicking in the shaded areas.
It’s a sure sign that winter is on its way. Are you ready for it? I hope you’ve located your ice scraper and that you’re beginning to button up your homes for the cold weather coming. (I’ve got the wood stove going this morning in our house, so it’s toasty warm.)
Here are this week’s announcements:
Last Week’s Big Shift Conversation
Last week we had 18 people stay for our second Big Shift conversation, and it went well. This time we talked about harder things. We brainstormed possible ideas for what we might do to alleviate the financial strain of living in a building beyond our financial means. Here were some of our ideas:
Could we sell the whole building and meet as a church in a different (less expensive) location?
Could we sell the sanctuary and keep the community center, and meet as a congregation in the center?
Could we raise enough money to create an endowment that would keep the building going?
Could we sell our organ and use the money to start that endowment? Or sell the organ and stay in the building for a few more years?
Could we find other congregations that might want to move into our building and split the costs of maintaining it?
We don’t get to know right now which of these ideas might be the right choice for us, but at least we’re starting to think about it. Dick Lunt, who has attended a Quaker church with his wife Lora for many decades, explained to us that their Quaker congregation has lived its life in Potsdam for over 50 years without actually owning a building. Over the years they have met at the Newman Center, our church building, and are currently housed in the Christian Science Church’s building. In his explanation to us of how the Quaker church operates, he offered a model for how we might be able to find a different way for ourselves in the future.
At our meeting we also talked about our finances. Back in December of 2020, Session put together a budget for this year. Because there were so many unknowns with Covid at the time, we planned for a worst-case scenario, which included an $80,000 deficit. Thankfully, now that most of 2021 is over, we’ve discovered that our deficit currently stands at less than $10,000 for the year (with two more months of the year to go). This is good news!! Because we haven’t been spending our assets at such a high rate, it means we will have more time to figure things out. At the beginning of 2021, it looked like we had a 2-3 year time frame to make a substantive shift, but that time line extends further when we don’t dip into our endowment at such a high rate.
One thing we do know is that our deficit spending will increase by about $25,000 at some point in the “near” future. Currently, because of my physical conditions, the PC(USA)’s Board of Pensions offers me disability pay, which offsets my part-time pay from the church. (This has been a contributing factor to our lower deficit spending than was anticipated.) I don’t know yet when I will be able to return to full time work, but when I do, I will go off of disability and the church will have to pay for my entire salary. In the meantime, we give thanks for this financial silver-lining, which has cushioned our finances!
During our meeting, a woman who has recently started attending, brought up the possibility of inviting more folks to join our congregation. She had some helpful ideas to offer– like starting up with Sunday School again! (She and I are on the same brain wave!) Right now however, because of Covid, we’ve had to put this idea on hold. But she’s definitely right! We can work towards inviting new folks to join our family. My hope is that when the Delta virus dies down we will be able to make a concerted effort towards this goal.
In all reality though, even if we do get a number of new folks coming (and pledging), it won’t be enough to boost our finances to the point that we could afford to stay in our building as we have been. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t put ourselves out there and try! We can certainly do both things at the same time– work on making a Big Shift and invite folks to join us! I hope that when the time comes, we can start having bi-annual “Bring a Friend to Church Sundays,” where we celebrate our friends and neighbors and share a delicious meal together afterwards! Would you be up for that?
Our office administrator, Claire Geagan, has come down with Covid and will be out of the office for the next 10 days. Please be patient with us if phone calls are not returned in a timely manner until she returns. If you need to get a hold of someone in the meantime, the best way to do it is via email. The church’s email is email@example.com.
This Saturday (the 30th) at 6pm you are invited to come and take a turn at pulling the giant rope in the bell tower that rings our church bells. From 6-6:30pm, churches all over the world will be ringing their bells to warn our communities about climate change. This is in anticipation of the next Climate Change Summit happening in Glasgow, Scotland, which begins on Sunday the 31st.
As people of faith, it’s our spiritual duty to work on reducing our emissions. God has given us this earth to care for and tend to, and we need to start making some big shifts in our fossil fuel consumption, if we’re going to have a healthy planet to live on in the future!
This Sunday, October 31st, we celebrate our reformed heritage and Pastor Rich Hinkle will be preaching and leading worship for us this Sunday!
Friends, whether it’s at the church level or the global level, we are on the brink of needing to shift how we live in the world. Our habits, our institutions, and our social structures all need to shift in new ways if we’re going to live into this moment of history in healthy, life-sustaining ways. Fortunately for us, we serve a God who is always doing new things, and who has created in us the capacity to adapt and to change. Did you know that you’re capable of doing things differently?
When we are little kids we’re always trying new things, but by the time we get to be adults, it’s easy to turn our habits into ruts. Ruts are ok to live in as long as they nourish life. But when we find that our ruts do not nourish us, and when they do not nourish our planet, we have the power to make new patterns and habits– ones that will create well-being.
Today I wonder if you’re stuck in unhealthy ruts in your own, personal life. Are there things that are not sustainable in your life? Relationships perhaps? Financial patterns? Eating habits? Do you need to make some changes? God’s good news for today is that we can change!!! We have the ability to make things better for ourselves, if we decide we want to. Making changes comes with consequences, of course, and sometimes those consequences can be uncomfortable and even painful at times. But we serve a God who can help us over the hump of consequences, and help us to thrive.
In the book of Isaiah we read that the people had been banished into exile because of unhealthy choices they had made for themselves. But God wasn’t going to let them languish in despair forever. God had a plan for change! God told the people:
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”~Isaiah 43:19
This is always God’s promise to us– to help us to do a new thing; to make a way in the wilderness and create life out of death. If only we would choose to join God in the effort. Will you join me in stretching out your “change” muscles? Together, with God by our side, we can do this!
Stretching Out My Own Change Muscles,