I was asked to share with you my reasons for putting my hand in the Capital Campaign to expand our welcome and strengthen our service at Old First. I have been attending services at Old First for 2o years, next month is the 20th Anniversary of having become a member.
I joined because my life was at a place of aimlessness. I am willing to talk about that in more detail if you want to hear about it some other time. But the most important thing about it was that I had no sense of purpose in my life and things were not going well for me. I joined because I needed to make a change in how I lived my life.
So there have been, in the past 20 years, lots of changes for Old First and for me. Some of the changes are obvious like the change in pastor, the change in our governance structure, the change in the layout of the first floor.
Some changes are subtle, like bagels for breakfast, summer service at 10:00, new hymnals, new choir robes to no choir robes, communion more often and in a different way (we worked on that for several years).
The cupboard went from being staffed by the church volunteer on Wednesday to staffed by community and partner congregations on Saturday and from providing canned food to 15 to serving breakfast for 100.
When you look back on Old First’s history, there have been some radical changes. People leaving their homeland, changing the language they use in worship, moving to an entirely different part of town, 3 times. Maybe the most radical change at Old First in my time has been the vote to be an open and affirming congregation.
All the changes at Old First have been, in some way, for the community to have a better connection to people in the congregation and beyond, making God’s love relevant to the lives of those who come to Old First and to people that Old First members encounter in their lives.
So there have also been a lot of changes in me (aside from the added years and pounds). I laugh more often and at more things. I am a more hopeful person. My eyes and ears are more open to sensing the presence of God’s love in the world and my heart turns more to lifting up prayers where I see suffering, broken connections and systems that are meant to serve the common good causing more harm than good.
I have become a representative to our covenant partners: the Philadelphia Association, the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference, and the National United Church of Christ. I come to these roles as a member of this congregation and, see that we, as members, see Old First as our congregation, our covenant partners see us as a Hub, a Lynch Pin, maybe in the vernacular of IT, as a Server.
So that is the background for what I want to explain about why my hand is in with the capital campaign.
Worship and service are, fundamentally, why we are here, what we are about. And though there are two parts to the Capital Campaign, they are both about the same thing: taking some major steps to improve our connection with people and shape the relevance of God’s Love here in this time and place and in the future.
So as we gather our resources to finance these changes, I am honestly excited to see what that looks like. To see what we will do with the capital, what the changes will be and how we, as a congregation, will grow into those changes.
Will the change be limited to this location or will be, again, expand to new territory?
Will we do it alone or find covenant partners to join us?
How much carpet will be involved?
How much can we lower our carbon footprint?
What will that balance between the historic and the now be in our worship space?
And what about the parking?
I know that such visioning is a collective process. All voices need a place to be heard, seeking and sharing information, listening to each other’s views in love as we plan together. In visioning we need to remember that change can cause anxiety and that change is inevitable as well.
We are, together, in this capital campaign, on a mission to keep the light of God’s love relevant in a city that is in need of that illuminating love. So as we gather the capital to expand the welcome and strengthen the service my hand and my heart are in covenant with this congregation to keep the change going.