Grace and Peace to you.
This weekend I’ll be reading my poetry and leading a workshop on “Poetry as a Form of Prayer” and preaching at grace Episcopal Church in Bainbridge Island, WA. (Rev. Rick Whitefleet-Smith will be guest preacher on Sunday). They’re telling me they have about 75 people signed up for the poetry reading and 65 or so for the Saturday workshop. I’m excited to gather with that many people who are passionate about poetry. And it has me wondering: what’s something that a roomful of people at St. Matthew’s would be passionate about?
This is more than a rhetorical question or a personality exercise. It’s a real, practical and essential issue. Here’s why. Adding to the usual rise in our expenses, we want to hire a Christian Education staff person, and we have some capital projects that need to be done. This adds up to a proposed 2014 budget of some $430,000. At the same time several of our most involved, supportive and generous families have retired or have moved away from Acton. The result is that based on current pledges and other income we expect to receive about $360,000 in 2014. That’s a $70,000 shortfall. Ouch.
Now, we can make up a shortfall by both raising income and cutting expenses. Either way it raises the same question: what are you passionate about? What do you care about deeply enough to give more money to make it happen? And if it comes to cutting, what do you care about deeply enough that you would choose to fund it at the expense of something else?
I believe God is inviting St. Matthew’s on a journey of discovery, a path on which we do more than just set some goals for the next few years, but really discern and claim our calling. God invites us to discover what we’re willing to sacrifice, and what for. Sacrificial giving is not a common phrase these days. We give “what we can afford,” or “what we’re comfortable with.” The trouble is, that doesn’t build a church and it certainly doesn’t build the kingdom of God. Only deeply felt passion and commitment does that.
We don’t have the luxury of coasting, of carrying on as usual. We have to choose—or the choice will be made for us—to either grow and thrive, or begin to wither. There’s no middle ground here. So I invite you to begin thinking quite seriously and specifically: What are you passionate about at St. Matthew’s? In what way does God call this church to make a difference in the world? What are you willing to sacrifice to make it happen?
We will ponder these things at a congregational meeting on Sunday, Feb. 9 after the 10:30 worship service. (There will be no 8:15 service that day.) But before then, examine your hearts. Pray about this. Where are your passions? Wherever that is, that’s the future, one way or another, of our church. I can’t wait to see where God will lead us.