The fall sermon series has been focused on Transformation. So far, we have heard about Faith, Prayer, Repentance, Vocation, and today Truth. The next few weeks that run along with our stewardship campaign will examine Telling Our Story next week, Generosity on the 23rd, and Giving on Stewardship Sunday, the 30th. As you know, The Federated Church goes through a formal process every year where all of its members are asked to review their finances and determine what they will pledge for the coming calendar year. Hopefully, those pledges will be sufficient for the church to meet its financial plan for the coming year.
There has been a problem with this process. In recent years, we have experienced a decrease in funding for programs, mission, staff salaries, and facility maintenance, and we must reverse this trend. I imagine there are many reasons for this decline, but I don’t want to dwell on any of them. Rather, I would like to talk a little bit about how The Federated Church is transforming lives, how it needs your extravagant support to continue doing these things and with your help expand on them.
First, let’s talk about some of the local mission work of The Federated Church. Take out the white insert in your bulletins and open it to the back inside page. Look at the schedule of activities for the coming week and note how many different organizations are involved. These are the people who may not be members of our church, but rely on the availability of our facilities for their programming. People, that’s mission work. It’s local and starts right here. Over the course of the year there are other special events that use our facilities – the film festival, Chautauqua in Chagrin and many special musical events. People, that’s mission work. Right under the title, Weekly Calendar, it says, “Rentals, Scout and non-church related community events are not listed.” Once again, people, that’s mission work. That’s transforming lives.
Next, think about the local mission work done outside of our buildings: St. Paul’s Community Church; Colorado Kids scholarships; Family Promise; Chagrin Falls Park Community Center; and Our Church’s Wider Mission (which supports the UCC denomination). That’s mission work that enables us to transform lives.
There are other ways that The Federated Church enables mission work both with and without committing church funds. We financially support Stitching Hope and JustHope in Nicaragua. In addition, our partnership with JustHope (hopefully you have tickets for the Wine for Water and Hope event) provides opportunities for those with special interest to get involved in their projects in Chacraseca, Nicaragua. Those projects include medical support, sustainable farming, the building of a cultural center, and support to local schools. These trips transform lives – not only the participants, but also those they reach out to during their travels.
Back to the money thing. Every dollar of our total pledging that falls short of the financial plan will impact these programs. That can come in an actual reduction in dollars available for any specific mission, reduced staff support for activities, or postponed maintenance that makes our facilities less desirable for use by outside groups. None of that will help us transform lives.
The church has worked to increase the pledging options available to make it easier for you to budget your dollars. For the next few Sundays, people will be available in Fellowship Hall after the worship service to explain those options and help you decide what is right for you.
While I was Scoutmaster for Troop 150, I had a favorite saying that I used for those Scouts who seemed to be stalemated in their advancement. Borrowed from the Ohio seat belt campaign, I would say, “What’s holding you back?” My job would be to help remove those obstacles that the Scouts saw as roadblocks. But what about all of you contemplating next year’s pledge? If the Federated Church is about transforming lives, if the Federated Church is about reaching out to those in need, and if The Federated Church is in need extravagant giving to accomplish these things - then, “What’s holding you back?”
Let us pray.
Creator, Thank you for today’s sunrise. For the breath and life within me.
Spirit of the East, Brother Eagle, may I have eyes as sharp as yours, so I am able to see truth and hope on the path I have chosen. Guide my step and give me courage to walk the circle of my life with honesty and dignity.
Spirit of the South, Wolf, help me to walk my path with joy and love for myself and others, and the four legged and the winged ones. Show me it is right for me to make decisions with my heart, even if at times my heart becomes hurt.
Spirit of the West, Brown Bear, Bring healing to all of your people, including those I love and myself. Heal my body and mind.
Spirit Keeper of the North, White Buffalo, help me to surrender, to listen to the quiet, and make wise choices that are put in front of me.
Mother Earth, thank you for your beauty, and for all you have given me. Remind me never to take from you more than I need and to give back more than I take.
Creator, Thank you for the opportunity to transform lives. Make my gifts thoughtful and generous.