Every Perfect Gift is our Testimony
Beloved Members of St. Martin's,
Last week we launched our annual giving campaign here at St. Martin's, "Every Perfect Gift."
This is a critical time in the life of our parish. We pray that we are coming out of these long 18 months of pandemic, slowly, carefully, and prayerfully. That's wonderful!
However, that also means, as groups and worship services return, our expenses will increase as well.
Just before and during the pandemic, we lost a part-time communications staff member and an assistant to the clergy. During pandemic, I attempted to cover these positions myself as best as I could in an attempt to relieve pressure on our budget as we all figured out how to pay our giving estimates and deal with the fact that there was no longer any plate offering whatsoever, and only 1 service a week broadcast online. What that meant, frankly, was that I was putting in nearly double my contractually agreed-upon 40 hours a week. That is unsustainable-- and frankly, unhealthy physically and spiritually for all of us.
During the shutdown, we also lost our Sunday Sexton when the Beckmans moved. We cut back on weekly cleaning to monthly.
We are making some cautious, incremental, absolutely necessary, steps. In late September, we brought on the Rev. Shug Goodlow as assistant rector at a 20 hour a week status. Her position is allotted for by the budget item originally used for the assistant to the clergy who was also part-time; therefore that spot which was vacant is now again active and being spent.
Pastoral care is always a critical concern and something to which I devote considerable time and energy; this pandemic has exacerbated that. Yet I allowed more things to be added to my plate while we were hunkered down in pandemic conditions. It is also clear that we absolutely need more staff to adequately serve this parish and help support its mission. We need a dedicated communications staffer, obviously. Now that we are back to in-person worship, we need to fill that Sunday sexton position as well. We need to go back to having the facility cleaned weekly. But more importantly, we need to re-engage as we can with our mission to bring Christ's gospel to the world.
Even with all of that, we also have managed, largely through the above measures and through our Treasurer Page Andersen's dogged determination and skill in securing PPP loans which became grants when we fulfilled the proper requirements.
As I announced last Sunday during the announcements, we have, for the first time in at least a decade, not had to make a permanent withdrawal from our SMIF fund thus far this year to cover a gap between expenses and income. But it has been close.
This is a momentous opportunity for us-- what an amazing thing if our members could use this year's remaining weeks to make sure that each week's receipts not only meet but surpass our weekly expenses by giving as they can to help us conquer yet another financial milestone in setting ourselves in a position of not just surviving but thriving!
And then we turn our attention to next year. I am convinced that the world needs the ministry of St. Martin's. Your accumulated giving estimates are the fuel for that ministry.
Our budget spreadsheet is somewhat unhelpfully divided up into categories like "Clergy," "Staff," "Administration," "Building," and they are our largest categories. You'd see categories in any budget of any business.
But St. Martin's is NOT a business. Those category names are misleading in terms of stating what it is we are about here at St. Martin's. St. Martin's is a gathering of Christians seeking to live out the way of Jesus to those around us-- to serve our neighbors, our communities, our diocese, our region by living into our baptismal covenant. We are called by God, specifically, to:
--continue in learning, communing, and worshiping together as Christians;
--resist evil, acknowledging our faults, and seeking reconciliation when we have fallen short in our behavior;
--ourselves proclaim the healing and reconciling love and justice of Jesus Christ by no less than what we say and what we do;
--look for Christ's face in the face of each person we encounter and seeing our service to anyone as service to Jesus himself, loving each person as if they were a part of our own body and family (because they are);
-- actively work for justice and peace among all people, and honor and proclaim each person's dignity and worth as a human being.
We will be repeating those promises together again on November 14, when we confirm and receive new members into the Episcopal Church-- another true blessing to celebrate after these long months. Those promises remind each of us, as liturgical scholar and professor the Rev. Ruth Meyers reminds us, not just WHO we are but WHOSE we are--each of us is a beloved child of God who belongs to God, along with all that we have. We repeat those promises, and "remember that the God who calls you gives you all that you need to respond faithfully."
Those five promises, especially, are what our budget is supposed to empower all of us to do. Our giving is the support for those activities we are called to engage in as a parish.
As I stated in last Sunday's sermon,
"... we need to look at what [our] budget says about our mission and our priorities. What we spend money on in our lives is what we most value. It’s that simple, and that stark. Our giving—yours and mine—is a statement of the depth of our faith and our acknowledgement of our gratitude and our love.
Our giving is NOT about using money as a way to settle grievances, or expressing our displeasure or pleasure, a kind of carrot and stick contraption to get our own way. It’s not based on a profit-and loss calculation, on a measurement of how much we first get.
No, our giving is a way to rejoice for God’s love and presence in your life.
It’s a way to live without fear or limitation.
It’s a way to be a part of God’s healing work in the world, and to make a real difference.
Sure, some of the money given to St. Martin’s will go to pedestrian things like maintain the building and grounds, paying the light and the heating and cooling bills, finding and fixing leaky pipes. But if that’s all we take care of in the budget, we have failed as a congregation.
Even more important, the money we raise each year is a spiritual statement from each of us individually as well as collectively. That statement either empowers us or hinders us as a congregation in our ability to reach out, listen to, and be with folks like Bartimaeus, because we recognize that we have all BEEN Bartimaeus at one time or another.
Whether we engage with someone whom society marginalizes, or whether we merely keep the lights on for our own sake, our annual budget becomes a spiritual document. It declares to ourselves and to the public our priorities in our efforts to be good stewards and disciples. To follow Jesus on the way."
Please look in your mailboxes for your annual giving campaign materials, including your giving estimate card. And let us embrace more boldly the journey to follow Jesus on the way.