Bad News

May 1, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life, Religion, Work 

I got some bad news at work.  Most of it is “company classified”, but there is one piece that I feel pretty free to share.  No raises this year for anybody.  No layoffs yet either … for now.

This left me in the unfortunate position of having to send an e-mail to our church’s “guy who tracks pledges” reducing my budget pledge for the year (but not the capital pledge – I already paid that in full).  In the fall we had been exhorted to pledge boldly (even recklessly) believing that God would provide.  One of the stewardship team actually made that his Minute at the beginning of worship.  He talked about how when his personal finances were stressed he chose to pledge boldly and how God provided good financial news later in the year.  Let’s just say that it hasn’t happened for me yet – it’s going the other way.  So I have to take back the 20% pledge increase over last year and give at last year’s rate for the rest of the year.  Even so, I know that other families in the church are hurting more.

We’re not in dire financial straits yet.  We are still saving at the same rate, but the “unbudgeted” savings that resulted from the times that the paycheck was bringing in more than expenses (minus the planned savings) aren’t happening.  A surprise bonus from work (from last year’s project work) and the tax refund both went in and out of the checking account at such speed that other papers were sent flying in their wake.  We’re not quite at the point where we need to reduce the saving rate, but we are at the point where the rest of the budget is just breaking even.  I’ve already taken the step of eliminating an expensive hobby (flying) and I’m holding off on buying ham radio equipment for the new hobby.  We’re right at the point where we’ve reduced discretionary expenses as much as possible, and if things get worse (pay cut, job loss, even more expensive food or gas) we’ll need to start making lifestyle cuts.  There is still a lot of room to make lifestyle cuts before we reach the point that some families are in – mainly because Carolyn and I (mostly Carolyn) are VERY conservative with money.  Our mortgage is fixed at a very comfortable rate and we have ZERO credit card debt (thanks, Mom and Dad for teaching fiscal responsibility).

I think we’ll survive the downturn intact and probably better than most, but only because we’re prepared.

But it still hurts.  If we’re feeling the pinch, how much worse can it be for those who didn’t collect their nuts for the winter?  (Or even those whose nuts were stolen by others?)

Malaise

April 7, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life, Religion, Work 

I’m sorry I haven’t written lately.  I’ve been busy at work, busy outside work.

I’m also having one of those weeks (heading towards months) where everything is going just a little wrong.  Nothing is seriously wrong.  Nothing is seriously right.  Everything is just a bit off kilter.

Work – as I’ve noted previously, the company is up for sale.  Just today I heard two different rumors listing different companies that want to buy us – one possible and one unlikely.  The senior management committee that approves IT projects just deferred a decision on a major technology change that we want to make.  If they turn that down completely, I probably need to either find a new job or resign myself to being caught in a technical cul-de-sac (like COBOL programmers were 10 years ago).

Home – Home is generally OK.  I wish that Carolyn and I shared more common interests – so that we’d end up spending more time together.  I don’t want to grow in the wrong direction.  Finances are being pinched just like everybody else between tiny raises and huge cost increases in everything else.  As I said – pretty much completely OK but with a few signs of wear.

Church – I’m serving as a “Visit Steward” for the capital campaign.  I’m getting the feeling from conversations with people that folks are really unhappy with the way that the campaign is being run.  Most people agree with the need for funds and support most of the projects involved in the campaign, but there’s a lot of disaffection with how it’s being run.  Also, the consultant sent to us by the PC(USA) Church Financial Campaign Service is really turning people off.  There has to be some way to let the people in Louisville who sent her to us know what a terrible job she’s doing.  We had our campaign visit training this past week.  The handout was clearly cludged up from other campaigns and included references to things that we aren’t doing in our campaign (like 2nd and 3rd visits, household information cards, etc).  One of the biblical references for stewardship actually came out against giving to the church if you read the next verse.  Oh, well.  I did make my pledge as required (all visit stewards were told to turn in their pledges as part of the commissioning ceremony yesterday, with less than a week’s notice) and even included a check for the entire amount.  As soon as I do my 3 visits with members I’ll be done with the campaign.  Here’s the hard part – one of my visits is to a family where one breadwinner is jobless.

“In Deuteronomy we are told to give 10%.  Jesus tells the rich man that he should give everything.  So the amount that we should pledge is somewhere between 10% and everything.” – no, this wasn’t a joke.

Youth group is another area that is fine, but still not quite right.  We had one youth make a life decision that will greatly negatively impact her choices in the future and it’s hitting me harder than I expected.  Our attendance is rather spotty – we see a decent number of youth at each meeting but the list of attendees is different most weeks and we don’t really get to connect with them regularly.  As I said – things are mostly OK.  Youth Sunday is next week and we really have our act together in advance for a change.  I am looking forward to going to Montreat for Week VI this summer.

Then there is the team that I co-chair.  At our last meeting I got called a racist – under the theory that any white person is automatically a racist.  This was said by a white person to a room full of white people – all of whom are well-intentioned in mind and as far as I can tell in practice when it comes to racial issues.  I’m not looking forward to our next meeting two weeks from today.

When it comes to church I’m at a crossroads.  I want to either become more involved or less involved.  I don’t think continuing my current level of involvement is feasible – it’s gonna have to go up or down in the fall.  I’d really like to be more involved, but in a meaningful way in a position where I can help the church change for the future rather than in a “pair of willing hands” way.  I don’t mind doing the necessary, but it seems so much of church work is maintaining the old ways rather than working for the new.

Hockey – the Trenton Devils finished 6th out of 7, with the lowest number of wins in the entire history of the franchise.  Enough said.

So malaise is the word of the day.  Judging from the economy it might be the word of the entire country.

Stewardship and Humor

October 9, 2007 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Can't Make This Up, Religion 

From the minutes of the Presbytery of New Brunswick Mission Council, September 25, 2007:

Based upon the average household income of
$93,277 per year and the likely contribution behavior in the area, the overall
religious giving potential can be described ass extremely high.

You can’t ask for a better typo (emphasis mine).

Shame and the Stewardship Campaign

October 5, 2007 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

As I have discussed previously, I turned down the invitation to serve on the Stewardship committee this year.  I did this even though they were using the Consecration Sunday curriculum – which I was assured was not about the need for the church to receive but about the need for the person to give.  I was also told that it would be about more than money, but also about service.

So far this year we’ve had two “Minute for Mission” presentations at the beginning of the service.  In one, a woman who has recently experienced several deaths of close family members spoke of the care that she has received from the church. She also explained how this year’s campaign is different than last year’s in that a budget is not being prepared before the campaign – we don’t know How Much We Need.  I have no issues with this presentation.

The second one is the one that bothers me.  Another committee member spent 5 minutes at the beginning of the service going over a sheet called “Grow One” from the Consecration Sunday curriculum.  She went into detail about how to read the sheet and apply it to each of our situations.

One side of the sheet was the traditional income vs. percentage table.  On the left side was your income (different this year in that it isn’t annual income but weekly income) and across the top are percentages – with groups of percentages labeled things like “Low”, “Middle” and “High”.  In the center is the weekly pledge for that income and percentage.  Now while I find it hard to believe that our well-educated congregation needs help dividing their income by 10 to find the 10% tithe, or can’t use a calculator, I suppose this could be helpful to someone.

It’s the other side of the sheet that bothers me.  On that sheet, a stair-step graphic appeared.  Under each step was a range of weekly contribution.  The lowest range was 1c to $19.99 per week and the highest (of about 11) was $200 or more.  (I have to wonder who is pledging 52c per year.)  Above each step is the number of pledges in that group.  Our congregation is concentrated in two places – a group at or slightly above midpoint and a larger group about 1/4 of the way up from the bottom.  No information on incomes or situations – just how much per week.

Also included in the bulletin was a reservation form for the Consecration Sunday presentation and lunch.  After the speech was completed, the ushers collected the forms before the worship service began.  This again seems very coercive to me – using peer pressure.

Here’s what bothers me.  This is clearly intended to shame people into making a larger pledge.  This is NOT using the positive power of the Holy Spirit in order to encourage increased giving – it’s using the earthly power of peer pressure to shame people into making a larger pledge.  We should NEVER be comparing ourselves to others – we should be comparing ourselves to the ideal that Jesus provides.  We never ask whether or not we should avoid sin because the session thinks we should – we are to avoid sin because God wants us to.

Another troubling aspect of this method is it fails to take into account individual situations.  I know that we have people of all ages who have suffered debilitating illnesses that have caused them to stop working.  I know that we have families where the primary breadwinner is out of work (due to outsourcing in many cases).  What do these people think and feel when they read a chart showing their pledge as being below average?  Is it really a good idea to induce shame in those powerless to correct the situation?

And what about the sin of pride?  Are we not encouraging pride in those at the top end of the scale?

Something else that bothers me is confidentiality.  We were told last year that only 3 people know what we pledge – the person who opens the pledge card envelopes, the Treasurer, and the person who issues our envelopes.  So why then are we seeing counts of pledges at various levels?  It seems that confidentiality is being broken, maybe not at the individual person level but overall.

Please note that I’m fine with hearing that the TOTAL giving is $X00,000 and that our budget last year was $Y00,000 and that we’ll have to cut some programs if we don’t make up the difference.  I just don’t like making it personal.  My gifts to the church are between me and God.  For that matter, my gifts to the church are a whole lot bigger than the check that I put in the envelope weekly.  Conservatively, I’ll estimate that outside of worship I volunteer 30 hours a month to the congregation (through youth group, committee work, and the like) and another hour or two per month on average to the church camp.  And that doesn’t consider any contribution that I might make through blogging about church here and at other blogs (a highly subjective value, I suspect).

I said earlier that I was bothered by this campaign.  That was a bit inaccurate.  My real feelings are somewhere between bothered and infuriated.  I nearly tore up my weekly check and envelope.  I briefly considered the reaction if I got up and walked out.

I will not be at church on Consecration Sunday.  The Monday after that Sunday is my 13th wedding anniversary and the 20th anniversary of Carolyn and my first date.  We will be in NYC for the weekend celebrating.  I’m lucky in that I won’t be there.

Maybe I should just find someplace else to worship during Stewardship season every fall.  I’ll just go worship at another church that isn’t doing Stewardship from about the last week of September through the middle of October – whatever week the cards are turned in.

Supposedly, because I’m missing Consecration Sunday I won’t get a pledge card until AFTER that date.  I’d be happy to fill it out now and make it all go away.  Apparently I have to wait until I’m considered delinquent before they’ll even GIVE me a card.  And it’ll come with a personal contact.  More coercion.

(Lest you think I’m griping because I’m at the low end of the pool:  My weekly contribution was above the midpoint on their stair chart.  That is true even though I appear to the church to be a single-person household – Carolyn also gives a similar amount to her church.)

Church: Getting your money’s worth

September 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

This Sunday the congregants at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville experienced a trifecta of worship events.

It started with a 5 minute plus speech by a member of the Stewardship committee.

Later we followed that up with a baptism.

After the sermon, we had ordination and installations.  One elder was recently elected to fill the term of a brand new elder who had to move for his job.  Two deacons had been unable to attend the ordination and installation the week after the election back in June – one had to be ordained.

Then after the offering we had the commissioning of the Hearts and Hands team.

The staff managed to keep the total time to 1 hour 15 minutes through the creative use of short hymns and short prayers.

After the service a number of us were joking about how we should have added Communion and a Wedding to the service.

In other news:  tonight is the first meeting of the Welcome and Outreach Task Force that I’m co-chairing.  I have all handouts copied, and I’m just about to send a reminder e-mail.  Wish me luck!

Annual Congregational Meeting

June 18, 2007 by · 10 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville held the Annual Congregational Meeting yesterday.

I won’t bother to comment on the many reports that were given.  In general, the church is healthy.

The only slight negative in any report was that the Stewardship Campaign for last year didn’t reach it’s goals.  Those goals were tough – a 10% increase in pledges and a 10% increase in total pledge amount.  The committee achieved a 5% increase in total pledge amount with a decrease in pledges.

The Youth and Young Adult Ministry was by far the longest and most comprehensive report – covering 2.5 pages with 9 pt. type.  I was mentioned as a youth leader several times – including being credited with being a “devoted” leader of the Jr. High group even though I attended only once.

The “Green Team” wasn’t mentioned except in passing as the sponsor of one adult education event.

The Stated Clerk’s Report rolled up the membership numbers for the year.  We started the year with 867.  There were 29 new members (13 by Profession/Reaffirmation of Faith, 14 by letter of transfer, and 2 restored to the roll).  We lost 65 members – 6 by Letter of Transfer, 11 by Death, and 48 by Session Removals (making them inactive).  If you take out the Inactives, we had a net gain of 12.  We ended the year with 831.  There were also 10 infant baptisms and one adult baptism.

The Sunday School and Youth programs total 256 youngsters.

Aside from one remark made by the pastor regarding inactive members (and which I’ve contacted him about via e-mail) there was nothing to be concerned about.  All seems to be well.

But I’m concerned.

I believe that I am guilty of the sin of envy.

The Nominating Committee nominated 5 people to serve as elders, 8 people to serve as deacons, and one person to serve the remaining two years of a term as deacon.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a youth nominated to fill that unexpired deacon term – Claire will do a great job and if I have her year in school correct she’ll be able to finish her term before going to college (which I unfortunately was unable to do so many years ago).

Three of the officers were members of the same New Members class as me.  I was very surprised to see them nominated – I figured that nobody that new would even be considered (indeed – one of the pastoral associates said something to that effect to me).  The man nominated to be an elder is actually a returning member (he moved away and then back).  All three of them are devoted members and completely appropriate for the office.

But a voice inside me asks “Why them and not me?  Haven’t I worked hard enough?”

Another voice answers “Why does it matter?  What do you want from the church?”

Yet another voice says “If you’re upset about this, you clearly aren’t worthy anyway.”

I do make a solid contribution to the youth ministry and feel appreciated there.  I know that I made a good contribution to the Green Team and I have felt appreciation from some about that.  I try to pitch in wherever I can.

I know that I make valued contributions at camp, and they are recognized.  Camp feels like home – what I do there to help (while sometimes tiring) never feels like work.

Clearly the pastor sees a future contribution from me – it shows in his choice to ask me to lead the new task force.  This is partially offset by the fact that it’s been over 2 months since I talked to him about the task force and it still isn’t populated yet.  When last we spoke we had three members (out of a target of 8) and we had named another 8 members to ask.  Our plan for meeting before the summer went out the window – we’ll now be lucky if we can start our task in September.

So what am I looking for anyway?

Clearly, any consideration of the church as a future full-time vocation has to go on the back burner.

I feel like I’m back at square one with my discernment process.  Did I really join the church for the reasons that I thought I did?  Am I being fed?

As I said last week, there is turbulence.  Now it’s revealed to be inside my head.

In the mean time, I persevere.  I’ll keep working on things as planned.  I’ll still be at camp in about 2 weeks to help with check-in.  I’ll still work on the task force when/if it gets going.  I’ll still be working with the youth.

NOT to committee, at least not this one

April 3, 2007 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Life, Religion 

I got a call last night on the answering machine from a member of the Stewardship committee.  This was my “contact later” mentioned in the letter from the pastor.  (I blogged this previously here).

I called her back today.

I started off by mentioning the fact that my pastor had sent me a separate e-mail talking about another initiative that he’d like to speak to me about.  That initiative – which deals with visitors, seekers, and the perception of the church in the community – is a much better fit for me.  It falls right in line with my personal experience, my retreat experience, and some of the things that I’ve written for this blog (which is apparently what brought me to his attention in the first place).  He also specifically mentioned that I should choose either this new initiative or the stewardship committee, but not both – in order to avoid “new member overinvolvement” syndrome.

Then I mentioned my concerns about last year’s stewardship campaign (detailed in my blog post referenced above).  I also listed the good that I took from last fall’s campaign and how I increased my pledge 25% above my original plan based on one speaker’s message about taking risks knowing that God will provide.

She explained that they plan to use Herb Miller’s Consecration Sunday program for next year’s campaign, and that they are trying to get the focus from keeping the church heated to giving what you are called to give.  I agree that this is the correct tack to take when it comes to stewardship.  However, I’m not sure that I’m a good fit.  The last thing that I want is to be the lone voice of dissent no matter how valuable that might be to the committee.  Remember – I’ve only been a member for 6 months.

I’d also like to see some concentration on the gift of time and talents rather than just money.  Based on my committee work here thus far, it seems that the congregation suffers from the usual church disease – a small number of people do a lot of the work.

I really believe that the other “visitor/seeker” initiative is a better fit for me because:

  • It’s something that I’m really passionate about
  • Working on it doesn’t necessarily require knowing lots of other members
  • It’s more focused on giving to individuals rather than taking/accepting from them (I put my youth group work in this category too)

I think the way that we left it is that I’m not interested in the Stewardship committee.  I’m hoping that my feedback will be well received (it was clearly heard and understood).

As for the other initiative – Tuesday will tell (next Tuesday, that is).

While I was dreading this phone call, I think it went well.

——————————–

In other news, my blood pressure is acting up.  I got refused by the blood center for a platelet donation last night because my BP was too high.  They tend to get a higher reading than the doctor every time (probably because I go to them straight from work and straight from the highway), but I checked at home this time and it really was that high.  I have a physical scheduled for later this week anyway.  I’ve been on medication for high BP for over 10 years, but maybe my body has adjusted and they need to up the dosage.  We’ll see.  Mom’s BP has been all over the place (from normal to very high) for years, so I guess I inherited a problem.

To committee or not to committee

March 23, 2007 by · 10 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

I got a letter from my pastor last night.

He wants to invite me to join the Stewardship Committee.  Next year, the committee will apparently be using Herb Miller’s “Consecration Sunday Stewardship” program, focusing on the spiritual need to be “givers” rather than the church’s need to “receive”.

It’s nice to be asked.  However ….

When I joined the church, we were asked to fill out a stewardship questionnaire.  On the page were a list of major church committees, and we were asked to check those that we were interested in.  Unless I’m remembering incorrectly, Stewardship is one that I chose not to check.

I also have some fundamental issues with the way that the church in general goes about asking for money.  Giving is too often a demand in the church.  I feel that giving in the church should be voluntary – each gives as they feel moved (called, even) to do so.  If the church comes up short, they tell us so and we adjust our giving to make it up.  I really don’t care what other people give – it’s only important to consider my own giving.

This past year, the church (through the pastor) threw around actual numbers.  In one sermon, Pastor Vamos said:

One tangible indicator of our generosity is this–our giving to the
church. The health of this organism. We need to say that. If our
congregation is struggling to meet the bills, something is wrong. Your
giving to this church is an indicator of whether you’re living
generously. If you’re making over $90,000 and giving $50 a week–your
intent may not match with the reality. There’s something wrong with
that picture.

The use of an actual dollar amount in the sermon is what bothered me the most.  That sermon almost caused me not to pledge this year.  In a later sermon, a guest preacher exhorted us to take risks with our giving, knowing that God will make it work.  On the basis of that guest’s sermon, I increased the amount that I pledged by 25% over what I’d planned to give.

Later, Pastor Vamos compounded the error of using specific numbers.  During his “State of the Communion” sermon, he spoke about the actual pledges received:

There are some interesting statistics that you can take home and mull
over. I remember from college statistics that the mean is the average,
and so our average pledge from this past year is $2,206. And that’s a
lot more than it was last year, and so that’s terrific. But the
median–as I remember it’s that number where half are above and half
are below–is $1,500. And I’ve been told that the mark of health for a
congregation is when the mean and the median are close together,
because it means that we’re not as dependent on those large pledges.
And don’t get me wrong–if you’re one of those larger givers, we hope
that you will increase your giving, because that really affects our
ministry greatly. But this really represents a challenge to those who
are below that mean and are able to, if you have the gifts, to be able
to do more. It’s a challenge for us to think about that, how we can try
to make the mean and the median match up a little more closely.

It was even worse than that.  We were given a bulletin insert that showed a bar graph with each pledge from smallest to largest (the smallest being under $100 and the largest being $20,000).  We were also given the average household income for the county, the average household income for the town that the church is in, and what a 10% tithe would be for each of those incomes.  These were compared to the average and median pledges.

The use of specific numbers in financial stewardship is the use of guilt in the church.  It’s measuring us against each other rather than measuring us against Christ.  There’s no question in my mind that the church must be funded in order to survive.  There’s also no question in my mind that giving of your time, talents, and money are required for a faithful Christian.  It’s just the use of specific numbers that bothers me.  Following Christ is not about guilt – it’s about the grace of Christ’s sacrifice and our attempt to be as Christ-like as possible to thank God for that miracle.

Lest you think that I’m griping because I’m cheap, my pledge was above the average.  It’s important to remember that I am a part of a two-church household, and Carolyn pledges a similar (probably identical, but I’m not sure) amount to her church.

So the problem for me is this:  If I’m uncomfortable with asking others to give money, if I’m uncomfortable with the way that stewardship campaigns have been handled in the past – should I join the stewardship committee?

Perhaps my presence would moderate some of the things that bother me.  On the other hand, I really don’t want to find myself at odds with the rest of the committee and my pastor on a regular basis.

What do you think?

I really wish they’d chosen me for one of the other committees.

The letter says that “in the next couple of weeks, someone from the current committee will be calling to see if you are willing to serve.”  I hope I have an answer by then.

Getting Involved at church

November 7, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

This week I have a homework assignment from New Member Class.  I have to check off a list of activities that the church does that interest me.  I also need to answer two questions:  What do I expect to get out of Lawrenceville Presbyterian, and what do I expect to give to Lawrenceville Presbyterian?

I’m a rather strong introvert.  It’s not always easy to detect – I tend to speak of myself as a “loud introvert”, someone who can keep up a facade that makes me appear more outgoing.  As you may or may not know, introverts draw their energy from a different type of activity than extroverts (aside from eating and sleeping, of course).  Extroverts go into social situations and actually draw energy from the room.  Introverts on the other hand need solitude or a small group of close friends to create energy.  Introverts can actually feel the energy draining from them in a large social setting like a party.  Extroverts may go home charged up – introverts tend to go home exhausted.  This is a big generalization, but still true.

So how does this relate to new church members (and me in particular)?  I speak from my own experience.

I have to work hard to feel comfortable in a setting like the usual Fellowship Hour after church.  I’m fairly comfortable in church – I’m there as part of a mostly anonymous crowd and only interact personally with those sitting around me, and even then only for the passing of the peace.  But put me in a room and I’m lost.  I end up a single individual wandering around the room without talking to someone, or even standing on the side.  I will talk to those that I know, but I’m fairly unlikely to walk up to someone and introduce myself.

On the other hand, in a known group and particularly a small group, I’m fairly comfortable.  On a committee, in a small study group, as part of a team – I’m comfortable.  I know my place.  It’s even more comfortable when I’m part of a group working towards a goal – putting together a special service, running a youth activity, serving on a committee, or even just bean-counting.  In fact, that’s the best way for me to meet people – to work with them towards a common goal.

Once I feel comfortable in one small group, I feel that I have allies and I’m more comfortable branching out into something new.  I know that I had allies before or at least that people were giving me the benefit of the doubt, but this subtle shift from “that person over there” to “Bill, the guy I worked with on X” is huge for me.

So the hard part is getting that bootstrap job in an organization.  I feel like I need to be invited to participate in that first activity, and if it’s not joining an organized group but is more like an open activity I need to be dragged along.  Once I’ve done something with people, I will know them and be more open to fully voluntary participation in the next thing.  It’s just getting into that first thing that’s so hard.

The one exception to this rule is Camp Johnsonburg.  This camp is the one place on the planet (no hyperbole here) where I have felt totally accepted for being authentically ME outside of my marriage.  Camp Johnsonburg works hard to create that acceptance and even celebration of each of us – it’s probably the 2nd or 3rd core value of the camp.  I go there, smell the unique combination of plants in the air, and feel at home immediately.  The tension in my body drops dramatically nearly instantly.  I am ME, and people like me for being me.  There’s nothing more powerful than hearing “We’re glad that you came” and knowing that they really meant it.  That they didn’t mean “We’re glad that you brought your money” or “We’re glad that you brought your skills” or even “We’re glad that you added one to the headcount”.  We’re glad that you came – that you are who you are and that you are sharing it with us.  That’s powerful.  That’s a core of my theology – that all people are good to God to some degree or in some way unique to them.

As I re-read what I wrote above, I realize that camp isn’t really the only such time.  There have been a few more.  Serving as a YAD to Synod was like that.  More recently, meeting with Jill, Nolan and Rick about Lawrenceville Presbyterian was like that – I felt at ease in the first few minutes.  It might not have been on my checklist, but it was a huge factor in choosing a church.

So what does this mean when joining a church?  I need to be pulled in.  Please pull me in.  You won’t be disappointed.  I know that I have skills that can be put to good use, and I’ll give you a list on that piece of paper you asked me to fill out.  I just need a little tug to get out of my shell.

New Member Class – Day 3 (Last Day)

November 4, 2006 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

Today was the last day of new member class.

Carolyn and I just barely made it on time due to Carolyn’s mammogram (routine – as far as we know all is well).  She made it home, and after some bending of the speed limit laws we made it to class just on time.  We had expected Carolyn to join us late, so this was better than we thought.

This week, we had a few new faces.  One friend of a participant visiting from out of town, and a new person (another seminary student) who is being run through “remedial New Member Class” to catch up.  Most if not all of the missing folks from last week were there today.

We started with another sharing session – this time talking about why we believe that Lawrenceville Presbyterian is right for us.  This is one of the questions that the session will ask us in a week and a half, so I believe that this was planned to let us gather our thoughts.  This took about 1/2 hour (and we got started 10 minutes late – everybody was running late today).

Next, we did a Lectio Divina session on Genesis 2:4-9.  We did a breathing exercise to calm us, and then the passage was read twice by two different people.  We meditated on it for a few minutes, and then each of us gave our thoughts.  I concentrated on the trees.  I had two thoughts – one was that I liked the diversity of the trees, all different and yet all good for food.  I believe that God sees people like that – all good (to some degree) and good for each other (to some degree).  The passage also brought to mind the fact that I’m now old enough that I can see the growth of trees.  I’m thinking primarily of the trees around our house – which over the 10 years that we’ve been here have grown from saplings to substantial trees.

After that, Jill Cifelli talked about stewardship and did a quick rundown on the volunteer opportunities and missions of the church.  She also included adult education opportunites.  Joan Semenuk was also there and added to the list where Jill missed a few.  Then, Joan talked about financial stewardship and the church and we were given pledge cards (I didn’t take one – I filled one out and handed it in on Stewardship Sunday two weeks ago).  Then we were given a quick overview of the process of meeting with the session on the 15th.

At the end, Jill asked me to speak about the Reconnecting with Faith retreat coming up in January.  I spoke extemporaneously for a few minutes on the retreat and I hope that a few people found it intriguing.  This group isn’t really the target audience – they are already in a church – but perhaps they know of someone else.

After the formal class, a few deacons arrived and laid out a brunch for any of us who could stay.  They had bagels, fruit salad, and two casseroles (the ham and egg one was good!) and drinks and such.  We all sat around and talked and ate.  It was nice.

I have a homework assignment – I have to fill out a worksheet for Jill identifying the areas of church life that I would be interested in participating in and there are a few questions on the back about what we expect to get from the church and what we plan to give to the church (not just money, time and resources).

We meet with the session on November 15th.  They take us into membership formally at that time, and then we are introduced at church the following Sunday.

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