In 1989, something — I’m still not sure what — led me back to church. Thirty years after my confirmation in the UCC, I went church shopping — Episcopal, Presbyterian, Unitarian, UCC.
Most of the time, few congregants noticed I was there. In one church, I must have been completely invisible. Not one person said hello. Old First came to my attention when I stopped by the crèche. I liked the crèche, but more important, I liked the courtyard sign “United Church of Christ.” “Hey, that’s my church!”
When I finally got here on a Sunday in January, I saw closed doors. “What’s in there?” I grabbed the doorknob. This seemed momentous.
And there was Ruth Kershner, the greeter, who seemed glad to see me. Worship, the liturgy and the hymns, the Statement of Faith, were all familiar. I was glad to be here, too. After worship, I remarked to Geneva “This feels like home,” so I returned the following week, and the week after. Bill Phillips, usher, remembered me. “You’ve been here 3 Sundays. Now you have to join!” Geneva asked me to lunch, and in our conversation, I remember saying that I didn’t want to join a church just for Sunday worship. I had no idea!
I found a 24/7 church, full of energy. I found a welcoming community of people who worshipped together and supported each other on their faith journeys — a community that combined worship and service in so many ways, via the shelter, a complicated undertaking, and via something as simple as an outdoor faucet where homeless people could get a drink of water in hot weather. The Summer Tot Lot. The YES program, the Youth Hostel (we were even in a student travel guidebook), Food Festivals, Jazz ‘n’ Berries, the Movie Group, All-Church retreats, Spiritual Companionship Groups. Open & Affirming. I liked Bible Study and tended toward writing and discussing and going to meetings. I was a Deacon and an Elder, and helped with Long-Range Planning. I served on a Search Committee (but not the one that can take credit for finding Michael, by the way.)
This is my second capital campaign. The first one, in 1997, funded much of what you now see in our buildings. We renovated the parsonage into an office building, created more classroom space and an apartment for the church volunteer. We upgraded the Social Hall for use by the homeless shelter and community groups.
In 1997, we asked members for what seemed an impossible amount of money. Faithful givers all, we hadn’t considered larger one-time gifts. Our campaign goal $385,000. We raised $457,000.
We have more members now. We can do this again — and more!
I don’t want to give a “Sermon on the Amount” — that’s your decision — but I want to talk about the practicalities. My dad gave me only one piece of financial advice: “Give some, save some, spend some.” (in that order) — and you have to pay your library fines.”
So, for the next three years, I’ll adjust these proportions to give more, save some, and spend less. I will dip into my savings and challenge myself to do a little more than I thought at first would be possible. I find that as I think about what to give, the amount begins to seem more possible.
So take your time with this decision. Think about it, pray about it. Divide what you would like to give by 3 years. Then divide each year’s total by 52 weeks. Can you do that? Could you do a little more, in faith, to open our doors, make our sanctuary more inviting, and find new ways to make a difference in our city?