That message is that we are a growing, vibrant congregation, we have been open to the presence of the Holy Spirit and that presence is becoming more real every week. One way this is apparent is how we have chosen to face several of what others might call problems to solve by claiming them as challenges of our vitality.
This week you have received or will soon receive a letter describing one of those challenges…our finances. I hope you will read this letter. Together I believe we can find a way to significantly shrink if not close the gap between the money we believe is needed to provide continued vibrant ministry and the amount that we pledge.
Let me tell you why I think it is important to shrink and/or close this financial gap.
I’m sitting at my desk writing this note looking at a graph as I prepare for our staff retreat on Friday where we will make plans for 2018. The graph illustrates our attendance, comparing how many people attended on any given Sunday over the last three years. At first it looks like a lot of confusing red and green and blue lines until you put together that the lines for this year are usually higher than the last two years. Our average worship attendance through the first 45 weeks of this year is 179. In 2016 we averaged 166 for the year. That is a growth of 13, and that is after growing 9 the year before. Those are significant numbers.
Another statistic our crack Administrator Becky pulled up is that we now have 79 children who are under 8th grade who are connected to our church. Add another 26 for 8-12th graders and you get the picture… It’s crowded here on a Sunday morning and a Wednesday night. And by the way, don’t get me started on baptisms. I’ve set the record for “baptisms in a year” at 15, and there are a couple of baptisms waiting to happen out there.
To meet the need of this growing ministry to children and youth, we added a staff person in early June. Jody Veatch has been a tremendous addition to our staff. We’ve even changed her title from Deb’s Assistant to Young Families Engagement Specialist. This reflects where we believe we are being called to focus our ministry and resources.
Now there are, of course, many other important and vibrant ministries of our church. This is one area of focus that we must find a way to keep going. Right now we are using reserves. But a challenge we are facing is that our reserves cannot keep pace with our growth. Where is the money going to come from? This is what brings me back to pancakes this Sunday and why I think pancakes are good for the soul.
I think pancakes are good for the soul because anything that brings us together, anything that can help us understand that despite our differences of opinion, of race, of age, of gender or sexual identity, anything that brings us together at EPUMC, especially the challenges of vitality we share, is good for our soul. So I hope you come this Sunday and share in the really good time, some really good pancakes and a community where the Holy Spirit is becoming more and more real every day.
Keep the Faith,