May 28, 2018.
For those of us who work in congregations, this time of the year is the home stretch before a little time off. I guess it isn’t that much different from those who work in schools or other businesses that are on a similar calendar. Including the 2 years of my internship, I am now completing my 12th year in parish ministry and each year has certain similarities and each year is incredibly unique. This year has been no different. Through the years, congregational life can’t help but be affected by life as we all live it. Whether joy or grief, celebration or anxiety, events in our lives and in the world do not stop at the door of 2709 Hunter Mill Rd.
One way this year has been unique is the increased level of grief, frustration and general anxiety over the political and cultural issues of our day. It was impossible to live through this past year and not be affected by the constant barrage of news, tweets and strife. Congregational life can serve as a mirror for the world in which we live, but more often than not, it is designed to be a place of solace, comfort, grounding, reflection, inspiration and practicing, as best we can, the world for which we dream.
This year has had all these things. Each new day brings an opportunity for us to engage in the spiritual deepening, grounding and practice of our Unitarian Universalist faith. One of my favorite Universalists theologians, Hosea Ballou, said, “If we agree in love, there is no disagreement that can do us any injury, but if we do not, no other agreement can do us any good. Let us endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace.”
In this day and age, it almost seems silly and simplistic to say, “If we agree in love, there is no disagreement that can do us any injury.” We can so easily be drawn into the debates of the world or the frustration of the times, but this place, this faith tradition, our religious ancestors help us remember that this is a religious community where we come to practice the highest good, the call to our best selves and the work of how to agree together in love. It is the reason for the Joy Committee, the music and arts program, religious exploration, pledge campaign and any or all of the programs and efforts of this congregation. It is the reason we exist. It is the calling of our mission and vision.
As we make our way together in these challenging times, I have been so heartened by your response to our latest Annual Giving Campaign. Each and every gift is valued and important and your generosity has made it possible to move beyond the steps we had to take last year to meet our budget. In the spirit of transparency, here are some of the numbers from the campaign (as of today). These numbers refer to pledge units:
- 197 increased their pledges (overall 19% increase in this group!)
- 101 stayed the same
- 46 decreased
- 11 (who are still counted as members) were not able to pledge
- 29 pledged for the first time
In calculating our budget for the coming year, the pledging units who have not yet pledged were estimated to pledge at the same level as last year.
These numbers represent a 3.3% overall increase in this year’s pledge campaign. As your minister, I am moved by these increases and this demonstrated commitment to the incredible need for this congregation’s presence in the community.
It is unavoidable that the ways of the world will seep into everything, but here we are and here we will remain, strong, steady and centered, supporting goodness and hope in the world.