It is that time of year again. Commitment time. The Finance Committee met a night or two ago and the results are not complete for this year’s Season of Faith, but it appears that we had another good Season . . . and I am not just talking about the coloring all of us did. In my years here, this congregation has demonstrated time and time again a remarkable capacity for faithful generosity. Maybe that is the upside to having a congregation tilted toward the, shall we say “mature” end of the age spectrum. Perhaps we have a larger share of folks who have finished careers and accumulated the resources to make financial campaigns end well.
Of course, money is not the only test of our commitment that is taken at this time each year. Pat Campbell has been working to assemble a Nominating Committee. Now Pat is a consistently positive person, but she has admitted that she has found this to be challenging work. Quite a few “no’s,” she has said sheepishly. And if this year is to be like recent years, there will be even more folks politely declining when we get to the part where we are asking people to serve as Elders, Deacons, Deaconesses, Officers, Committee Heads and the like.
Now I am inclined to think that a little guilt goes a long way. And I am pretty sure that religion and church life has been over-fed at the trough of guilt. But I also suspect that when we are totally free of any sense of guilt, it is probably because we are not being truthful with ourselves rather than that we have behaved wonderfully. So, take my words here as defensively as you will. Still, I wonder if the number of “no’s” we take in this time of year is not a sign that not all is well with our spirits. Sure, life and culture and church have changed since the golden age of church life in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. I read an article just this week about how Millennials are different, but before that, they were writing about Gen X and before that, we were trying to understand the Baby Boomers. The way people relate to institutions, including the church, is not the way it used to be. It doesn’t mean any person is better or worse than anyone born before or after them, but it does mean that in a congregation like ours, it is challenging. Some folks have graduated or retired; others are just not as in to meetings.
Most of that, I can process. But I think we are still left to ask what the “no’s” say about our commitment . . . to the institution of church in some ways, but also to God . . . and maybe even to our own sense of what is important at the core of our lives.
What I mean to say that there may be some disconnect when I can talk about how we need to be doing more for our children and youth, but I say “no” to teaching, serving on the education committee or helping with Vacation Bible School. Does it really tell you nothing about my values when you have heard me say dozens of times that Communion is the heart of our worship, but I don’t want to accept a position that will obligate me to be present some Sundays to serve at the Table? I could go on, but I suspect you hear me. And besides, I have about had my fill of the guilt I am serving.
I wonder sometimes what the one who called fishermen to leave their nets would think about people who readily call him “Lord” but whose lives are too full to take on this duty or that. You recall that he once said that where our money is, there our hearts would be also. But ours is a culture where time can be valued even more than money.
Anyway, if Pat or someone from the Nominating Committee asks you to consider doing some job in 2020, give it some thought.
Blessings and Peace,
Marty Stebbins is going to Montana. She would seem to have the name for it – Marty. You could picture a person named Marty on horseback herding cattle and perhaps strumming a guitar.
Question 1: How many cows are there in Montana? The answer is two and one-half million. That means that if the animals were divvied up equally, every human being in the state could have more that two and one-half cows. (For comparison purposes, in our state, each person would only be entitled to about one-twelfth of a cow . . . roughly 125 pounds, assuming all NC cows are full-grown and depending on whether the cow exists for meat or dairy. Anyway, we could fit our share of our cows in our freezers. In Montana, they would have to have huge freezers.)
Anyway, Marty is going to Montana to be an Episcopalian bishop.
Question 2: Are we sure there are even any Episcopalians in Montana? The
Missoulian reports that there are 34 Episcopal congregations in the state which is not exactly an answer to my question. William Willimon once wrote an essay entitled, My Dog, the Methodist, which makes me think that with a 2½:1 bovine/human ratio, let’s make sure who we are counting.
Well, Marty assures me that there are Episcopalians in our forty-first state and they are alive and well, and she is excited to be going to care for each and every one of them, so enough of all this foolishness.
I guess I just want to say that I will miss her. I don’t want to get too maudlin here, but the truth is, being a minister is a different kind of calling. And while I have been blessed with remarkable and caring congregants in the churches I have served, it is hard to understand ministry unless you have preached a mile in someone’s pulpit. So, if we clergy are lucky, we will find a colleague or two along the way who can help lift the burden when church life gets hard . . . someone you can talk to who can lend a sympathetic ear when you need it and who can kick you in the shins when you need that. Marty was here when I arrived, and she has been a better friend than I could have asked for. We have sat across the table for more monthly Denny’s breakfasts than I can count, and we have talked trash over our annual summer food drives. We have shared in community Lenten services and collaborated on some responses to crises in the larger community.
Even more, I think the community will miss her. She has been both a forceful and compassionate voice among us for the need to minister to those who are homeless or hungry, who are disenfranchised or not welcomed. Marty ear for God’s justice and compassion has blessed the men, women and children of Wilson more than we can know.
So, God’s blessings as you leave us. They tell me there is a big sky where you are going which will probably give you a good look at the heavens above.
Enjoy the view, my friend.
Blessings and Peace,
These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.