What a wonderful warm, sunshine Friday we’re having today. Winter has lost its tight grip, and its downhill from here to spring! Yahooo!
Do any of you do maple sugaring? Folks at Birdsfoot have been gearing up for tapping, and there’s much discussion these days about the joys of all things “maple.”
This reminds me to ask– a couple weeks ago I mentioned that the Tisdales would like to purchase a sapling to plant out in the church yard this spring, to replace the sugar maple that came down last fall. They need to know what type of tree to order. A couple people have chimed in with their “vote” on which type we should plant, but I’d like to have a little more feedback from you. Would you like a white oak, a blight resistant American elm, or a sugar maple? Please email me back and let me know.
As I mentioned in an email earlier this week, George Davis passed away Tuesday night, and many of us are thinking about the many ways that he’s impacted this community. I am attaching an obituary that includes lots of fun pictures to look at and reminisce about. I hope you’ll take the time to read it and remember him.
George’s children have decided to hold off on having a memorial service for him until a safer time for all of us to meet together in-person. When I know more about a tentative date I will pass that information along. What I can share, however, is that Rev. Scott Barton, who some of you may recognize as one of the former pastors here at the church, has agreed to come and participate in the service!
Since it will be some time before we can gather together to remember George, I wonder if some of you have a special story that you’d like to share now with everyone. Feel free to ‘reply all,’ if you’d like to pass along a short memory.
Now to other news–
Back at our congregational meeting a month ago– if you remember–
we came to the realization that our church’s financial difficulties have been put on the fast track as a result of the pandemic. At that time, a visioning committee was formed, and we’ve already begun meeting, to do the hard work of deciphering what different ways of being in the world God might be calling us to next.
Good things are happening on the visioning committee. We have a road map now to help us begin doing this work– something I will tell you about another week. But I think it’s safe to say that the team is feeling encouraged and positive about what this process entails, and we’re all excited to see where God leads.
What I wanted to mention to the whole church now, as we start digging into this work, however, has to do with our finances and our projected timeline. I asked Cynthia Coleman to do a little research in our finances, to come up with a more definitive idea of exactly how much money we have to lean on, as we prayerfully work towards deciphering what God might be calling us to. Knowing where we stand with our assets will help us determine how quickly this process needs to be done.
As your pastor, I believe it’s vital for church leadership to be transparent when it comes to finances, especially in these situations. You need to know what’s going on with your church. So, I have some information to share with you.
Cynthia explained that of our $360,000 in assets, not all of that money is available to be tapped when we find ourselves running a deficit budget. There are a couple accounts that are “designated funds,” meaning that the money in those accounts can only be used for the purpose they were originally designated for. These two designated accounts are set aside for upkeep of the organ and for building maintenance projects. Aside from these designated funds, we also have money in the Presbyterian Foundation, which only allows us to draw down from the interest of the principal, and not the principal itself. The total of these designated funds and the money permanently set aside in the Presbyterian Foundation comes to $119,000. These are the monies we do not have access to spending when we need to draw from our assets to keep the church financially viable.
This means that we have approximately $194,000 to work with. Based on that number, I’ll make an educated guess and say that we have somewhere between 2-4 years to figure out what direction God is leading us to next.
That’s not a lot of time to do this work, but I feel confident that we can get it done. Before I came to be your pastor, y’all had already engaged in quite a bit of identity work. And there is a strong sense of commitment around discovering what God’s way forward might look like for us. As Bob Pickard put it at this last week’s visioning committee, we are “undeterred” in our mission!
Please continue to be praying for our church, for session, for me, and also for the visioning committee. “God, put us where you want us, and show us what to do!”
On that note, I want to highlight one small act of what I believe God is asking us to do in this work– and that is to take care of one another. Here’s an example of what I mean: Since we’ve switched over to on-line worship services, Renee Stauffer has been deeply involved in making those services happen. She hosts and records the zoom meeting that the worship service is recorded on every Saturday, and then uploads those recordings to Facebook for us on Sunday morning. (After that, Dale Hobson then takes it and also uploads the service to our church’s webpage.) Renee works quietly behind the scenes in many other capacities at the church, too. I’ve noticed lately that she– like all of us in the middle of this pandemic– is getting tired and weary. She needs a break sometimes. So this last week I asked Dale Hobson, who has the tech skills needed to do the needed computer work, if he would be willing to spell Renee once a month, and he said “Yes!” So beginning in March, Renee will be taking the second Sunday of every month off for rest.
Churches are notorious for being places that work their people to death— both their volunteers and paid staff. This not only stands in antithesis to Jesus’ gospel, but when we fall into those patterns of behavior, we lose out on living into the good news that God offers to us, too.
If we truly want to live the life of faith we profess, it’s important that we cultivate a culture of caring for one another in our church– especially as we engage in this hard work of moving our church into its next chapter. Now, not all of us can step into doing the tech job that Renee has sustained faithfully throughout this whole pandemic, but each of us have something that we can contribute to the whole of our community. Each of us can find a way to care for another person! It takes intentionality to build a structure of caring in an institution like a church, and even more awareness to foster a culture of caring and appreciation, but these are skills that we are going to need to get good at, if we are going to make the jump to what’s next for us.
So– Church! This week I am asking you to think about the people in our congregation, and choose one person that you can do something kind for. Maybe it’s emailing them to let them know how much you appreciate them, or calling them to check in and say hi. You can send a card in the mail or drop a text. However you want to do it is up to you, but I’m asking that you engage in the practice of care for someone from church this week.
For as I John reminds us again– “Beloved, let us love one another!”
God’s loving kindness is what holds us together, so this week while you are praying for our church and listening for God’s call, let someone in our church family know that you are thinking about them, and articulate your care of them.
Appreciating you today!