Tuesday, September 20, 2005

One of those "vestry meetings of a lifetime"

Tonight is one of those moments I both look forward to and dread in priesthood. This evening's vestry meeting really only has agenda item: the stewardship/financial crisis.

I have only noted that there is a crisis in this blog, and haven't gone into any real detail. Part of that is due to the fact that I am still getting my hands on the information related to this situation's genesis...And part of it has been out of respect for the process of letting the people of the parish in on the facts before the more salient bits hit the proverbial fan.

Well, the word is out. Last Friday I mailed a letter to the congregation informing them of the reality we face as a church. With a posted deficit from the end of August of around 90K, and with a projected deficit for next year of nearly 130K, we have a lot of work to do on stewardship.

This is our defining moment.

I was told by someone I respect that there comes a moment in the calling of a priest to a congregation when you stop being the new hire and become the rector. For some, that is a traumatic pastoral event. A significant funeral. A social justice crisis. There are some new rectors in the Gulf region, for instance, who are wondering what sort of ministry they will have...If any at all...Within their communities as they dig out from the damage wrought by the hurricane. It might be big, as it is for them (and now, apparently for me)...Or it might seem big. That crisis, my friend said, will define your relationship to the people...And they will discover that you are their rector.

Is this it? Odd that our bonding should be over stewardship. Or, perhaps, most appropriate.

Trinity is a wonderful parish that has so much to offer to its surrounds. A beautiful building, a glorious music program, a dedicated staff, loving people who give of their time, their skills and their resources to keep it going...And yet we are falling short of our common vision. This is not news, really, but the impact of a longterm deficit culture is now apparent. You can't spend more than you take in, obviously, but how does it impact core values and vision when the resources of the community are not available for the leadership's use?

The heartening thing is that no one person can bail us out. There is no flick of the magic wand that is going to retire the deficit and move us into the black...And no quick fix that will make us solvent again.

And that is what is truly scary. If we are to survive, then it means going past the temptation to achieve a quick fix...."Tell me what it will take, we can make it happen." It will mean digging deep inside to actually see what got Trinity to this place and time, and then it will mean being willing to face that reality, embrace it and then begin to make a change.

We will need to talk candidly about money, about corporate responsibility and about making the many disparate elements of this parish come together as one, for the common purpose of answering the call to be the Body of Christ here in Solebury.

Everyone has a part to play. The solution can't be sustained without us being converted to a new understanding of stewardship/giving to uphold the ministries of the parish.

Time for some truth-telling.

Time to forge new paths, for Christ's sake.

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