If Our Need Doesn't Outrun Our Resources, Our Vision Has Failed: E-pistle 05.26.11

If Our Need Doesn't Outrun Our Resources, Our Vision Has Failed: E-pistle 05.26.11

This E-pistle was going to be about the birds of the air!

With my windows open, chickadees appear at dawn on all three of my bedroom window’s sills; looking in; loud, frantic chirping. Louder than the AA guys outside the social hall! One “open-window Sunday,” during the silence at the beginning of worship or in another quiet moment, notice all the chirping. Then consider: they’re only a few feet from me when I’m trying to sleep!

From the sanctuary, their song reminds me of the Bible verse: “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.” (Matthew 6:26, in The Message’s translation.) Or– this same promise in song– “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me!”

I confess, on my window sill in the morning, I’m thinking more of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. (Ok, Jo, so the animal kingdom isn’t my friend– birds, squirrels, and over-sized weasels…)

Let me add a word about open windows… the weather and air conditioning. The Admin. Team has asked that Mindy and I make the decision about whether we need the air conditioning on Sundays. We will coordinate with Bruce. If you have concerns, please see one of us.

Please know, however, that it’s our intention to delay turning on the air and to use it as little as possible. We’ll open the windows as often as possible (so you can hear the birds) to protect the environment and keep our electric bills low.

We also plan to guard against it being as cold in worship as it was some air-conditioned Sundays last summer. This is an invitation to dress seasonably, sensibly– Old First is informal anyway, but sooner than you think, even I will be in slacks and a short-sleeved shirt (sans tie and robe). It’s not unusual for people to come to summer church in shorts and t-shirts. And starting on June 19, our worship time will move to a cooler, hour earlier, beginning each Sunday at 10 a.m.

Birds and air-conditioning out of the way, now this E-pistle can turn to what it has turned out to need to be about: “well done” and “thank you.”

When I arrived at Old First, a palpable fear met me: that there weren’t enough people to do all the work needing to get done. Back then, this concern carried an air of hand-wringing desperation– any moment those tasks we wished we could do… needed to do, but didn’t have the people power for, threatened the sky’s falling.

“We don’t have the help we need” is still a recurrent chorus. A fact; our reality. I suspect, like tight budgets, it will continue to be (but check out the good news in the Treasurer’s report for the first 4 months of the year!).

But I’ve noticed a change. Last week I was facing two big receptions for hungry, visiting clergy in less than 5 days. I asked for help. People brought food. People worked in the kitchen. People threw in money. Old First showed itself a lavish host both times! We covered the need and then some…

A big part of that is my staff colleagues. In Billi and Bruce, Marisol and Mindy, I’ve got a full compliment of co-workers. I thank God for them every day. I hope you all appreciate and thank them for their service as well.

But it’s more than just paid staff efforts. And more than just two generous spreads for portly parsons in less than a week.

New people have gotten involved. Raised their hands and rolled up their sleeves. Volunteered. Taken responsibility and are carrying out tasks:

~keeping our kitchen turning out good food from a range of chefs;
~adding new energy, insight and efforts to the Revitalization Task Force, the Wellspring and Worship Standing Leadership Groups;
~teaching alongside “old pros” in our Sunday School;
~giving our parents child care so they can enjoy a night out on their own;
~offering to organize a women’s retreat;
~working in the Gardens– planting, weeding, watering, harvesting and selling produce;
~bringing us new music;
~forming new fellowship groups.

An “old-timer” said to me awhile back, “All the new initiatives around Old First– they’re new people, their energy and ideas and spirit and hard work. And that’s the way it should be.” It’s true: I often look around a table and realize, “none of us were hear a year and a half ago.”

Still, a lot of people who have been involved for a long time are still doing a lot of hard work! But I did appreciate the willingness of someone who has done much in the past to recognize, make room and be thankful for the new people and their contributions.

And I admit, human resources aren’t as tight around here now. We’re not out of the woods yet. But the people who, when I arrived, were serving sacrificially in order to keep all the balls in the air, they’ve been able to scale back. Still involved, but now as one of more (if not yet “many”)– rather than as someone on whose heroics too much of our church life is depending.

We still have some “holes” to fill. There’s always the challenge of finding the right person for the right task at the right time. But, beloved, hear me say: Old First is a place where you can use your gifts and contribute your blessings. Please, feel invited. Step forward. Feel our welcome and appreciation.

And I need to repeat now a challenge I made earlier: WHENEVER we gather, there should ALWAYS be someone new at the table! WHENEVER…ALWAYS. Maybe when you first heard it, it sounded like absurd hopefulness. Now it’s a possibility we can make reality.

That challenge is biggest– for understandable reasons– when it comes to our governance. For example, it’s hard for the newest faces to make it “still fresh” to the Elders! But, even there, it’s a challenge for us to stretch for…

Finally, for me, there are two holes I’d like to see us fill. This is a not-so-subtle invitation, beloved!:

~Adam, our Treasurer, serves so well– he deserves an Assistant Treasurer. We have a well-defined, do-able job description in mind. A second person would be a great help as we move forward in adding need financial procedures and controls. One man– even one who works late into the night– can only do so much!


~This historic property– its maintenance and upkeep is so important. And we are struggling after too many years of deferred maintenance. We need more people serving on the property committee! Partially, this is because buildings and contractors and repairs are complicated. And often frustrating! But also, because we have a responsibility to the church and this city to maintain our “physical inheritance (alongside our spiritual inheritance!).

If you are interested– especially if you bring some knowledge or experience to the tasks– or hear the Spirit calling for either job (or any other service), please speak with me, so I can make connections.

Beloved, this church has a heart for service. And we’re good at recognizing ministry that needs to be done. If we ever get to a point where we have more workers than work, our vision will have failed!

In the meantime, know Old First is an equal opportunity place of service. There is a place for you.

But until you offer to help, we are left with this excuse: “there are many good things to be done, but without the people willing to do them, we have to trust that God does not yet mean for them to get done.”

See you in church,

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