Wednesday, September 28, 2005

In the wake of the meeting

I am truly tired.

After Sunday, I was barely able to make it home to bed. Granted, I left the house at 7:00 AM for church, was home for about an hour in the afternoon for lunch and was then out 'till almost 10:00 PM...So it was a LONG day.

The 8:00 AM service was a gift. The numbers are slowly stabilizing from summer evanescence. The 9:15 AM Morning Prayer felt a little less hectic. Moving into the meeting felt very natural and organic. The coffee appeared subtly, along with the cookies and coffee cake. That felt GREAT and lent an air of conviviality to the opening. People stayed and attended the meeting. Some even lingered from the early service and others came early for the 11:30 AM. All in all, a full house!

We opened with prayer, and then Nancy, people's warden, led off with a great introduction. Julie, Finance Chair and Patrick, Stewardship followed up. Each gave their sense of the situation, presented information that hoped to clarify and illuminate where we stand and give people a sense of being able to ask questions from a more informed point of reference. My own talk centered on letting the congregation know where I saw them from a pastoral perspective. Paramount in that was getting a sense of being present to an awareness of having been in transition for just over half a decade. It is so hard to talk about the reality of where we stand, when so many bits and pieces have been used to patch, caulk and explain away the stressors. We are not fine. We have a vision. We can make it happen. We are learning how to let some of the noise and buzz die down so that we can hear more clearly where God is calling us to action.

There is some feedback that came up around possible responses:
  • What about the organ fund, why was that so easy/so much and we still have financial issues?
  • Can we pay the diocese less money?
  • We should cut expenses
  • We should drop the whole thing with international outreach
  • Why do we have to hear this year after year? Is this a fundraising tactic?
The toughest part of all of this relates to how does the parish leadership respond? We have to be careful around detail (there was already one error reported in our math from last Sunday's handout), and sensitive in a pastoral way to what we say to a system that is uneasy to begin with.

Truth is, the only way out is to raise pledges. Not news the people want to hear in a collective way. We can't cut budget any more without gutting culture and hobbling mission. We can't raid the organ fund, it is restricted. We can't pay the diocese less without canonical repercussion. Dropping outreach? We already have. Without the funds in place, we can't give anyone anything.

One of the most powerful and poignant pieces of feedback I got was a question about hurricane relief: Would Jesus want us to help out the victims of the hurricane, or make sure we had enough to make budget? Good question, and one answered by my finance chair...Well, what if Trinity didn't exist? What happens when the next hurricane comes? Or the next earthquake? Right now, Trinity as a church can't do ANYTHING for anyone without canceling the heating oil delivery later this month. Or perhaps we fire the staff and curtail program? It is hard not to get angry sometimes. There is so much to love about this parish, and it is such a complex, LARGE animal. Sometimes, when all you can see is a tail, or an ear, or a toe, it is easy to forget that deep inside there is a heart beating, waiting to feed and fuel the whole beast for its work in life. If there is not enough blood, you don't just lose a finger or two. The whole entity dies.

Ouch.

I was looking to be a bit more positive...And I have to admit I feel better about things in general. I guess I am just at a point where even I need to wait and see what happens...And hold back judgment for a time until God's purpose reveals a little more of itself.

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