This is a good feeling. I have plenty of time before church and everything is ready to go. I have all the parts printed and organized. I think the service is going to be both fun and inspiring. Today we say a special thank you to some fine folks who have made the congregation better with their leadership and service. We celebrate our newest members. And we begin a focus on interdependence–the ways in which we are all connected.
Things have been a bit hard lately. You may have figured that out by the lack of blogging. I tend to get quiet and isolated when I’m struggling. I think the hardest part is almost over, but we’ll see. We’re at an anxious time in the congregational year–trying to figure out next year’s budget. It’s a time when everyone seems to be worried about scarcity: there doesn’t seem to be enough money and the talk is all about making hard choices
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I don’t tend toward pessimism, and it’s sometimes hard for me to watch this process, even if people are just being realistic. I guess I think it’s realistic to believe that if we truly commit to our mission, the money will come. People give when they are inspired and confident. I think church budgets can and maybe even should leave a little room for faith. Not so much as to be unwise, but enough to keep momentum rolling forward even if we don’t know where every cent will come from.
I guess I’m fighting what feels like a spirit of negativity. I was talking to the chair of the Board the other day and found myself reminding her–and myself–of all that we’ve done right in the past four years. It’s so easy to only see what remains undone. We give credit for our successes to “good luck” or “that’s how it should have been anyway” but take all the blame for what’s still not perfect. South Valley has wonderful worship, a great Religious Education program, a strong small-group ministry, a growing reputation and presence in the community, and a lot more going for us…but we spend most of our time focused on the committees that aren’t well-established, the pledge drive that wasn’t as effective as we’d hoped, and the things we haven’t gotten around to yet. It’s not that those things aren’t important, it’s just that we need a little balance. Where’s the joy, the gratitude, the faith, the hope? You can’t really run a church without them.
One of the things I tried to make part of the very essence of the congregation is gratitude. When I came, I asked the Board to write thank you notes at every meeting. We began a practice of publicly recognizing people who do and give a lot to the community. I’m afraid those things have become kind of rote now. It’s time, I think, to remind people how much we have to be grateful for. There are so many wonderful people who give their time, money, love, and energy to our congregation. We do so many things so well. We have people who are aware of what needs to be done next and are ready to help make it happen.
The mood of the congregation right now seems to be kind of “woe is me.” There is nothing better for that than a big dose of gratitude. Hmmm…maybe I feel my next sermon coming on.