Beloved in Christ,
We've had a bit of rain, haven't we? I love the rain and the good it provides for the yard and at the same time cringe a little as I know my lawn guy, Wayne, is going to return a bit sooner than anticipated. That means, of course, that I have to pay him. The joys of life in home economics, right?!
Home ownership can be challenging any time of the year let alone harder economic times. As a homeowner I have learned that unexpected things can happen that feel financially burdensome. Why, just this past week I had an estimate for new rain gutters. The privately-owned company I called showed up, gave me a quote and then promptly suggested (quite professionally, I might add) that I have another siding company take a look at the fascia and soffits, particularly the wood underneath to be sure it was alright for new gutters and a few spots that needed updated or replaced metal work. It's the Murphy's Law of home repair - dig into one thing and, chances are, something else may pop up that needs fixing!
Early Monday morning I went to have my oil changed and tires rotated. While I was waiting in the shop, the owner, Cory, a good friend, came to me and told me that all four brakes needed replacing... it would cost the same as replacing my rain gutters. Yikes. Well, brakes it was. The rain gutters can wait a bit.
The joy of home economics - when life gives you lemons, make lemonade and open up a stand to sell it.
Truth is, church economics are the same in our tradition. The congregational system or structure of the church was created for a family-unit-like community. The physical church building became the community's home-away-from-home. And with that building came all the responsibilities of home-away-from-home-ownership.
In my experience as a settled pastor, a church lay worker, and a general member working for my home church as an assistant custodian, I have much memory of church buildings and upkeep. Deferred maintenance has been, still is, and will forever be a challenge for the church in times of economic distress. Truth be told, the church has greater challenges as it competes for the financial attention of its members. The last 30 years have brought an exponential increase in non-profit enterprises that often pull attention away from church mission and ministry. The church is also experiencing higher numbers of folx on "fixed" incomes as our generations age.
At this point, some would throw their hands into the air and scream, " I WANT TO GIVE UP!" Alas, that's tempting, but probably not the way the Church should handle the distress. While offering some creative insight, I am amazed at Salem UCC leadership's ability to think creatively and offer ways to build sustainable income. You all are in good hands with leadership at Salem!
It doesn't stop there, however. While great leadership is imperative to healthy and successful church life, so too is the active participation of its family members. The church needs you. It always has and always will. Salem needs you.
When you think of what you would do to provide for your individual family home do the same thoughts occur with your church home? In times of need and in moments of abundance, our attention to both home and church is called to by God in our sacred texts. I won't go into proof texting single lines as some prosperity theology pastors might do, but I will say there is a plethora of texts that support generosity and community building. While no text specifies generosity in giving to a building - the brick and mortar - the narrative does arch toward supporting the gathered community, wherever that may be.
I am grateful for the leadership and for the support Salem and its members has. There is always room for improvement even while you are all on the way toward flourishing.
I love you all!