The heartfelt Step Talks our own gave last autumn, inviting us to pledge, impressed me. As I will say to anyone who will listen, stewardship and pledging are far more about faith than they are about money. I heard abundant faith in those Step Talks. Did you notice that two were by tried and true members and two by non-member fellow disciples? If we only enforce membership boundaries, we become like a club. But when it is also about discipleship, it rounds out into something more expansive, and more open to God.
Guess what. Projecting ourselves forward into 2015 isn’t only about “strategic planning”, but also faith, and our openness to God’s Spirit leading us in Congregational fashion. So I share Terry Brewer’s Step Talk, co-chair of our Pledge Committee, and a lover of our Church. He gave it one Sunday, despite his feeling ill. Not everyone was present to hear him. Listen for how the Holy Spirit crackles within it, sending us in new directions:
“I’ve been thinking about what makes this place special. What it is that makes me want to help keep the lights on here at the First Congregational Church. What is it for me? Is it the soaring musical gifts bestowed on us by Amy, and Dan, and Max, and our terrific choir? Is it the tear in the eye of our senior pastor, who wears his heart on his sleeve?
Is it the special sense of community I get when I look around and see so many really good people present? Is it the fact that I feel I am maybe a slightly better person when I am here? Yes, it’s all these things and many more. In fact, I imagine it’s a different and unique mix of elements for each one of us, But I bet there’s at least one element that each of our lists would have in common: the open arms of welcome we all find here.
As Don Longbottom used to say, ‘Wherever you are in life’s journey, you are welcome here.’ That’s a mouthful, and it’s not said lightly. It is the same extravagant welcome that has characterized this place for 270 years as prior generations have taken their places in these pews and looked around and looked within themselves, just as we do today.
When I think about this welcome, I always think of our electric side door, the one that opens wide in silent welcome whenever we approach. To me it says, ‘Come in, you’re welcome here. Take some time, take a seat, take stock of things. Stay as long as you can.’ These doors speak to me of unchanging inclusiveness and love…things that are worth sacrificing to preserve. I have a brief prayer. Please bow your heads with me.
Dear Lord, thank you for this lovely place. It isn’t grand. In fact it’s quite plain. But, it’s warm in the winter here and cool in summer. And our simple, empty cross gives mute testimony to Christian love for all who will listen for it. May all here who are able to, experience the unique joy that comes only through giving. And may our gifts keep this place strong and healthy so that its doors continue swinging wide in welcome long after we are all gone from here. Amen”
Great words for us as one year hinges into the next!