This is the time of year when congregations are in the thick of Annual Meeting. Whether you’ve already had yours, or you are still preparing, there is a flurry of activity and (if we are to be honest) anxiety that comes with this annual tradition in our churches. Trustees and Treasurers spend long hours struggling over projected pledge income and increases in expenses. Pastors worry about the line between challenging a congregation to grow its giving and realistically managing the financial affairs of the church. Church secretaries work overtime to print reports (often having to chase down that last financial report!). Clerks worry about a quorum.
In the midst of all the Annual Meeting “stuff” in the church, it’s all too easy to forget that budgets and balance sheets might not be the most important thing that we do. How much money is (or isn’t) in the bank does not measure the vitality of our congregations. How many members we have (or don’t have) isn’t the most important indication of congregational health. Those measurements may be important indicators, but I don’t think they don’t tell the whole story.
The whole story lies in the Gospel itself, and how it is transforming the lives of folks both inside and outside of our churches. I think that the important Annual Meeting questions are things like:
- Who in the congregation found a new way to reach out into the world or their neighborhood with compassion this year?
- How did we become hands and feet for Christ’s love and mercy over the past year?
- How did we act as an instrument of God’s buy generic nolvadex online healing for those who sought us out?
- Where did our prayers turn from words to actions over the course of the year?
- How did we share the Gospel treasure with folks inside and outside the church?
There are lots more questions like these – you know them as well as I do. They are marks of faith and integrity that we all recognize. As I travel around the Conference, listening to the stories of the 2030 clergy folk, I am awed by the ways that our congregations are living the Gospel in straightforward, everyday ways. Lives are changed. Hungry folk are fed. Children are looked after. Our elders are tended. Ministries of justice and witness emerge. Worship moves people toward a deeper relationship with God, neighbor and self.
In this season of Annual Meeting “dis-ease” when it always seems as though there isn’t enough money and there aren’t enough people to fill all the slots on the Boards and Committees, perhaps we could pause – for just a moment – and proclaim a loud ALLELUIA! Across Iowa, indeed in every corner of the earth, the congregations of the United Church of Christ (yours included) are living out the ancient, life-giving Gospel in ways that make a real difference in the world. And THAT is more important than having money in the bank or a surplus of workers!
We should celebrate! Alleluia! Thanks be to God….. for ministry and mission, for hope and faith, for generosity and pragmatism, for work to be done and the ability to do it.
–Katherine Mulhern, Program Support/Adjunct with 2030 Iowa