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Posts Tagged ‘integrity’

Once a year the Congregation gathers to pass a new budget for the year.  We gather to share our stories because I find looking at numbers on a page does not inspire me.  I want to know the story of the people I serve and after 7+ years in the congregation, I know many of those stories.

We compile our reports into a Vestry book that each parishioner receives.  A copy also goes to Church House so the Bishops can read them.  And they do.  When I arrived at this church the reports all seemed to revolve around money and the lack thereof.  While I understand that I am the largest expense, it’s also difficult to truly “record” what it is I do.

I find myself uncomfortable when I look at the numbers for attendance.  We are growing; we are attracting new people and families every year.  We have children coming to Church…not every week, but they are coming.  Many of our new members are active in the congregation and to me, that’s an exciting thing.  On the down side of that, our congregation is aging and many of the workers from years past are dying.  They are dying faster than we are attracting new members.

It would be reasonable to lament our shrinking numbers, our decreasing donor base, but instead there is a feeling of great hope in the congregation.  We are active, we are alive!  We care for each other and we share our stories.  But that isn’t measurable, which can be very frustrating to people like me.  I see numbers on a page, but those numbers themselves, don’t tell a story.  We need to add a narrative piece in order to balance the measurable and the immeasurable.

Last year’s Vestry was a challenge.  We had two sections of roof that needed replacing.  We had fewer members than the year before with four well-known and well-loved members dying through the year.  Parish Council brought the budget to vestry and it was projecting a deficit.  A decision was made to lower our Diocesan Apportionment and raise our budgeted givings.  At the time I wasn’t sure we could do it.  I prayed that we would, but honestly, I wasn’t convinced.

When we sat down, as a council with our treasurer and looked at the amount that was given by our congregation I was astounded.  We surpassed the originally budgeted amount by $10,000.  Not only did we meet the newly forecasted amount, we surpassed it.  AND we paid more Apportionment than the modified budget.  Not 100% of the full amount, but closer to 80%.  And that was a huge feat.

As I reflect on where the congregation is now, as compared to where we were when I arrived, the change is phenomenal.  The tone of the congregation is that we can do it.  We want to be vibrant and a necessary part of the community.  We have learned to trust each other again and not fear the stranger.  In short, we have learned again to be a family.  None of that is measurable in black and white, but it is emotionally and spiritually measurable.

This year’s Vestry will have a different tone than that of year’s past.  We will be concentrating on our abundance and celebrating our accomplishments.  We will encourage the congregation to give with all they have; through prayer, attendance, financial support and ministries.

We have learned that we are better together; and together we can change the world!  What a journey this has been and will be as we go forward.

Thanks be to God!

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Just over a year ago two baby boys were born in the same day.  Chances are many more than two babies were born, but these two babies were born to people I knew.  One baby, E, was born to two loving parents.  Over the first year of his life he flourished as he learned to smile, to roll over, to pull himself up and to walk.  Seeing pictures of him on Facebook made me incredibly happy. In comparison, H was born to a loving mother and community.  His father had chosen not to be in his life; but I don’t believe that he wanted for love.  Shortly after H’s birth he developed a fever and infection but it was too difficult to diagnose.  At two weeks old he was transferred from the city hospital to the children’s hospital in another city.  He was attached to machines that flushed his kidneys and fed him.  At three weeks I baptised him in one of the isolation rooms at this hospital.  And at 28 days he died.

Throughout the first year of E’s life I so badly wanted to meet him, but I was afraid.  When the community gathered for H’s Celebration of Life I wasn’t sure how to navigate the waters before me.  It was uncharted territory.  But through the grace of God and love from many people, we gathered to remember a young life that was once vibrant.  Last Saturday E and H turned a year old.  For E it was a celebration with family, food and love.  For H it was an Anniversary Celebrating his first birthday.

In my homily at H’s celebration I mentioned E and his family.  I bought a gift for E’s birthday many months ago and have still not given it to him.  Yes, I have been busy, but the reality is that I’ve been scared.  So very scared that I may, in some way, harm E.

When I held H in my arms I whispered to him that I would love him always and teach him of my friend Jesus.  The same holds true now.  I do so very much love him and instead of teaching, I am learning about Jesus through H.

In the midst of planning H’s service my friend and parishioner B left this life.  His last two weeks were very difficult.  He was ready, in every way, to die.  But his body wasn’t ready to let go.  Eventually he did slip away peacefully and while we celebrated that he was free from the agonizing pain that had racked his body for months; he was now free.

I met with the family and discussed details that B had shared with me.  We filled in a few spaces and decided what it was that needed to be done.  On the day of his service I took a deep breath and realised that I was not alone.  I remembered that this service was for B.  I knew what needed to be done.  HIs family spoke affectionately about him.  We told stories, we laughed and we cried.  And we gathered to say goodbye (for now) to one we love dearly.

It is my hope that B and H have met.  It is also my hope that H and E have met.  I am going to write E’s mother a letter to explain why I have been such a negligent friend.  And I will gather all my strength and set a time to go and meet young Master E.  Who’s life has been everything that a young life should be.

Perhaps we can chat about our friend Jesus.

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