This week's letter is a bit easier for me to write, because I simply am reporting what I announced from the pulpit during my sermon last Sunday the 12th.
July 11th marked the 140th anniversary of the first church service of the mission to the Point that became St. John's, in the home of Peter and Harriet Quire. That same day last week, I received an email from our treasurer saying we had received an anonymous grant, which will be matched dollar for dollar up to $18,000 for capital improvement projects. The challenge expires on December 1st of this year.
Because I know nothing of who donated this challenge grant, I am designating this the Peter Quire Challenge in honor of our founder and the day on which it was received. If you write a check with "Peter Quire Challenge" or "matching grant" in the memo line, it will be counted toward our $36,000 goal. I personally pledge at least $419 dollars toward this challenge. Why $419? Because that's the amount that Peter Quire left as a bequest to St. John's when he died in 1899.
According to the inflation calculator of DaveManuel.com, $419 in 1899 would be equivalent to giving $11,971.43 today, so Peter Quire's gift was far from an insignificant bequest. At the very least, then, I figured I ought to match his actual dollar amount, which is equivalent to a mere $14.67 in terms of 1899 dollars.
As I announced on Sunday, this Peter Quire Challenge is more than a simple fundraising effort, however. In addition to giving, it also has two other aspects: inviting and forming.
As for inviting: There are twenty Sundays between now and the expiration of the challenge grant period. Put that way, all we have to raise is $900 a week designated for this purpose to meet this challenge. But what if, in addition to the fundraising, we were to invite one or more people each Sunday to discover what Peter Quire knew in 1875: that St. John's is a place to call home.
Twenty people may seem like a lot, but I'll reduce your quota if you can find just one person who is inspired by our hospitality to return and claim (or re-claim) this church as his or her home over the next twenty or so Sundays.
By the end of 2015, we could easily double or triple our Sunday congregation with that sort of commitment. At the very least, don't let a week go by without thinking of whom you might invite to join you the coming Sunday. And remember: it need not be a newcomer; it might simply be a member who might not otherwise be able to be here except for your initiative.
If the Peter Quire Challenge is to give and to invite, over the next twenty Sundays, this church could be transformed in ways that we haven't seen since Peter Quire's own day. But there remains one aspect more to what I have come to think of as the Peter Quire legacy, and that is the whole purpose behind giving and inviting. Let me see if I can put it into something more concrete.
Inspired by Peter Quire and the saints who have gone before us, we give to St. John's and we invite people to St. John's so that together we may be formed by St. John's through worship, fellowship, and service. So the third component to giving and inviting is forming. "Christian formation" is the term generally given to this component, which can mean many things. In most churches, it means an adult Bible Study or children's Sunday School or other program. And I hope that by the end of 2015, we will have made great strides in the development of just such new programs and initiatives. But we cannot develop such things until we take responsibility for them personally. Peter Quire took responsibility for his own Christian formation. He opened the doors of his house and he opened the doors of his heart.
In order for us to grow as a parish, we must individually and collectively take responsibility for our formation. So the third aspect of the Peter Quire Challenge is for each and every one of us to decide what we need in order to grow as a Christian, and to pursue that with intentional focus over the next twenty weeks. This may mean banding together with others, and to do that, I will need to work with you to identify and connect people who share similar goals for their formation. In a church of this size, rather than erecting a one size fits all program for Christian formation from the top down, we have to let things sprout up from the grass roots level, just as this church did from its very beginnings. This means reaching out and letting me know what you would like to do in order to take responsibility for your deeper formation.
In our own day, we must not be shy about examining what we need at St. John's and from each other in order to be formed as the human beings and as the Christians God is calling us to be. So the Peter Quire Challenge for the rest of this year has three components: to give, to invite, and to form. If we do these three things at St. John's, we will be doing a great service not only to ourselves, but to our neighborhoods and to the world.
Yours in Christ's service,