Last Sunday after Pentecost • November 21, 2020
Greetings of peace from God, the source of abundant blessings to all who notice the grace that surrounds us.
The image of “Life as a River” has permeated my thoughts lately. Time, progress, and change are constantly moving us forward while we are caught (sometimes absent-mindedly) in their flow. In ordinary times, we float merrily along with few interruptions or obstacles. We see our friends and neighbors floating by and wave with limited enthusiasm. When we hit the ‘white water’ of life – like a global pandemic, we are all suddenly tossed about like, well, a cork on rough seas. If we are lucky or talented enough to keep our head above water, we survive the rocks and eddies with but a few bruises. If our lots were cast on different waves, we might discover ourselves being pulled down by undertow or overwhelmed by the waves topping our heads. It is those of us in the latter group whose hands are upraised seeking help, to catch a few breaths of air or to be pulled out of the waters by an act of kindness.
Interestingly, what I have noticed lately is that the people in the former group, those who are managing better than most, are inexplicably inclined in greater ways to assist the second group during rough times, even more than when ‘all is well.’ I wonder, when we are surrounded by disaster and catastrophe, do we find our bonds as human beings more compelling because of the risks that would drown us?
The metaphor comes to mind this season as your leadership team – the Bishop’s Committee, ably supported by Treasurer Elizabeth Adams – looks over the financial records of the year nearly completed and recommends any last-minute measures to ‘keep St. John’s afloat.’ What is gloriously clear to the team is that during an unprecedented year of pandemic and quarantine, you, the people of St. John’s have repeatedly reached out for the hands of good people who are struggling to stay afloat; and you support and uphold them in ways that are gracious and surprising. For this, I – WE – are grateful and humbled in the face of God’s abundance coming from your rescuing hands.
Today I include for your review a letter from our Treasurer, who first expresses her feelings of gratitude for all you have done this year, and who then gives you the details of St. John’s income and expenses thus far. We believe these numbers and the transparency they represent are important for you to have as you consider your support for St. John’s for the coming year.
Here is Elizabeth’s letter:
Dear People of St. John’s,
I have never been as grateful as I am today to be the St. John’s treasurer. This position has given me the gift of a front row seat to witness the enormous hearts of the people of St. John’s.
I realize, however, that the rest of you have not been receiving the usual blue sheet updates regarding the financial health of the Church, so I would like to share this information with you.
To start with, I want to extend heartfelt thanks to the individuals and families who approached us and chose to prepay their pledges to help us maintain cash flow during these difficult months. You have helped us to weather this storm. We also received a donation to help us procure COVID-19 supplies, such as thermometers, which we needed to allow us to begin our in-person worship on Saturday nights. Thank you!
As shown above, we are behind on income for the year, and while weakness in pledge and plate are part of it, we were also unable to hold the fundraiser we had planned. Fortunately, we have also managed to reduce our expenses, so we are in a good place overall at the moment. If the income trend continues, we are likely to end at a larger than budgeted deficit for the year.
Some additional information – At the instruction of the Diocese, all mission churches assisted in providing information for the diocesan application for the government PPP loan program. To date, St. John’s has received $59,661 from this program. We are currently holding it in a restricted fund until we receive confirmation that these monies have successfully been converted from a loan to a grant. This money will be used to assure salary and benefits continuation for our employees as our first priority.
Personally, I’ve had a tough 2020, but I am filled with gratitude for the St. John’s ministries that are always right there, whatever stage of life I am in. Even during a global pandemic, St. John’s was there. First, when my father died in May, I received support from the pastoral care ministry, as well as a woolen hug from the prayer shawl ministry. Then, when both my mother and my in-laws developed medical crises which plunged my husband and I into intense caregiving over the summer, the Caregivers ministry was right there to give us support and advice. And throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the Calling and Helper ministries have looked out for folks continuously. I am so grateful for these ministries that have touched me directly, but I don’t want to leave out the many other ministries of St. John’s that have calmly carried on helping people in the midst of chaos, as well as the ministers who continue to reach us all through the magic of Zoom like our priests and our music ministry.
In the spirit of ministries being in the right place at the right time, we have something new coming soon. We are aware that this pandemic has wrought economic distress on many businesses and families in our community, as well as within our church. Whether you are hurting, or just want to build a stronger foundation, we want to be a part of your financial healing. We are partnering with a program called Ramsey+ to provide education and resources free of charge for all church members. Please look for details in the near future, but in the meantime, please do reach out to us and let us know if you are struggling so we can partner with you.
Thanks for taking the time to read this update. Please feel free to call, text or email me with any questions you may have, I would love to talk to you!
Note: For privacy reasons we are not posting Elizabeth’s contact information on our public Facebook. Please use your church roster to contact her, or, if you do not have a church roster, email her.
By today, you should have received via snail-mail, a letter from the Gratitude Committee making its ask of you for your 2021 Stewardship pledge. After reviewing Elizabeth’s letter and knowing that the times are still rough, the undertow as strong as ever, will you please consider prayerfully how you can continue to assist those who are in the rough waters and to support St. John’s in our efforts to provide floaties and life preservers to those who need them? If you’re having reluctance about pledging, there is a wonderful video online (same link as above) from our People’s Warden, Jim Leach, who will help you through that.
Speaking of the beloved Elizabeth Adams, I encourage you to check out the Financial Peace University website. Elizabeth will be hosting at St. John’s, this world-class seminar on personal financial management that has the benefit of providing a means towards freedom from financial anxiety. Please watch for more details.
St. John’s continues to worship as a community online Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 9 a.m. If you can, please join us online. We are streaming Sunday, November 22 from inside the Church at the same link.
On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings, we pray together online at 8 p.m. here.
There will be no Bible Fellowship this Wednesday night.
The Adult Forum is Sundays at 10 a.m. We are on a journey with the book, I’m Still Here; Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown.
I will be out of the office this week and unavailable for regular office hours. Likewise, Reverend Karen will not have office hours due to the Thanksgiving Holiday. In an emergency, please contact us by phone.
May our Thanksgiving this year inspire a lifestyle.