This was delivered to the congregation past worship on March 26 by Karen Torvell, Leadership Council Moderator.
A few weeks ago, during the annual budget meeting you were told your Leadership Council voted to move from two Sunday services to a single worship service. We'd hoped to make this announcement differently, but sometimes things don’t go according to plan. So, this morning, on behalf of your Leadership Council, I want to explain how we came to this decision.
We took a good, long hard look at the budget over the last couple of years and the decisions that had to be made. It's clear to us that we're spending far more money than our membership's able to give.
As of July 1, our paid professional staff will be reduced. Kris Gorton's current 30-hour/week position will go down to 15 hours. This means we'll be down to one pastor who'll be responsible for everything. This includes the normal everyday things you expect a pastor to do; pastoral care, worship planning and working with staff and volunteers. Add to this our office staff will be all volunteer by July 1.
Lex is currently taking care of the daily needs of our tenants and being a building manager, these aren't things we hired him to do. The demands on our Pastor will only increase as the year goes on. Also, as you saw in this year’s budget, Lex is listed as a three-quarter-time pastor. Make no mistake; Lex still puts in full-time hours. He just isn't getting paid near what our wider church believes a pastor with his experience, in a church our size, should be paid. We can't keep kicking this can down the road. Our church is changing. Our membership is 250, and in the UCC no church our size has more than one pastor and more than one worship service. We've been spending money like we're still a great big church on the hill. It’s time to be who we are.
For several years now, we've had a single worship service each month, and more as needs require. The last three summers we've offered a single service for 10 weeks; alternating our separate service styles with traditional one week, contemporary the next. Many times, over the summers, but especially following those fourth Sundays, Leadership Council members and Pastor Lex have been approached and asked, “When are we going to go to a single service?” “Why don’t we do this all the time?” And, if you were at the first budget forum you would've heard John Shield ask that very question.
There's so much energy during these single services and so much good will between our members. New friendships are being forged between members who're finally connecting with people they'd almost never see in a two-service format. What better way to build community within our own walls as we ready ourselves each week to go out and do great things in the wider community? These are the thoughts that led your Leadership Council to make a single service an every week reality.
During the past few years, while worship remains important to our identity as church, this church's getting more attention for its hands on ministry. The younger families and seekers today are looking for an authentic expression of faith at work in their communities; a church who shows how Jesus is active and making a difference. As an Economic Justice Covenant Church we're creating that environment through the Allis Backpack Weekend Nutrition program and stepping up our justice and witness education efforts. But in order to keep this church viable and available to meet the core ministry needs, we need to change how we spend money, especially on worship. We also need to commit to the support of the church.
The beauty of being a UCC church is that members can take an active role in worship services, including preaching. Just last week BJ Obermeyer spoke about the needs of young children’s education. We also encourage everyone to read scripture or help as a lay reader. But help isn't limited to Sunday service. The office can always use volunteers. We have an amazing team of volunteers now but we need more people to step up so no one gets burnt out. In addition, all of us can help build the community within our church and the community of the wider church (including our ecumenical partners), by helping with the Allis Backpack program.
So, this provides the rationale for why a single service?
Now, what happens next? A team is in formation to work together to recommend the structure for a single worship service. The Leadership Council's creating a team charter to help guide them on this journey. We've got 5 people who've already volunteered to be part of this team, but we still have room for one or two more. We want to unify our services as soon as practically possible. We need to do this for a variety of reasons that we’ve previously discussed, but also this'll prepare us to share our space with another congregation. And that's just as important to our future. Be assured going forward you'll be given the opportunity to have input into this process.
Being the church is about being in community together and doing the work of our Good Shepherd. We're disciples of Christ. I believe we should have no fear in following our Shepherd to make our corner of the world a little bit better.
We're the United Church of Christ and it's time to become united both in our worship services and with our neighborhood.
Note: Since Sunday two more members have stepped forward to serve on the Single Service Planning Team. A complete list of team members will be provided to the congregation before the team's work begins.
It's raining, raining, raining here! We're told the rainiest months are September and October, so I guess Liberia doesn't want us to leave without giving us a taste of the real rainy season.
We are beginning the process of packing up with many decisions to be made about what to leave and what to bring home. We hope to send some luggage to Monrovia before we go on the 5th in a taxi. Peace Corps will be here and can take them there on one their trips. My school is finished. Jim will be helping to grade the final exam for the student teachers this week. Becky, our program director, has let me help with a couple presentations to the new Volunteers for their training, which has made me feel useful during this down time. The new group is full of energy and enthusiasm. The training is rigorous. As usual, Peace Corps Liberia staff is providing a great beginning to their service.
Now for a couple snapshots:
Remember Rebecca? Here's her with her new son, and the other young man is her son, too. This week she is taking the national test for her high school diploma.
Tea shops and restaurants. What is referred to here as a tea shop, is a place to gather and have a beverage, get an egg sandwich, and watch a TV showing videos (sci fi warrior flicks seem especially popular). Some serve soup and one we go to has grilled goat which is small chunks. The one near us that we buy bread from often has men 3 deep watching something on TV. 99% of the patrons are men. In the photo, the middle blue shop with all the men around it is a Tea Shop.
A restaurant not too far from us, Hada's, is a good place to get Liberian soup (any meat and vegetable sauce over rice. Always rice, and great heaps of it.). You go in if the sign is out: Food is Ready. You have one choice, for example palm butter soup, cassava green soup, peanut soup. The portions are large. Jim and I can easily split one order and both of us are full. Price: 200 LD. And a bag of cold water comes with it. Sometimes we just go for a soft drink. Since it's up on a porch and the main road is in front, it's a great place to people watch and see the world go by.
Thanks to all of you for reading this over the last 6 months. We've loved your support, comments, and appreciate you all!
Jim and Lynn
A five-for-five church? What does that mean? We learned about being a five-for-five church last Sunday which was BOCO Sunday. Five-For-Five means that Lake Edge UCC gives, on a yearly basis, to five mission offerings. How do we do this? We give thru our church budget to OCWM…Our Churches Wider Mission which supports the work of our conference and national office.Then we give collectively four times a year to the UCC special mission offerings.
These offerings are:
One Great Hour of Sharing which supports our international partners, funding disaster relief, helping with health, education and agricultural relief and the refugee ministries. Received on the fourth Sunday of Lent
Strengthen The Church: funds the Still Speaking ministry, church growth, pastoral and lay leadership development and helps with youth and young adult ministries. Received on Pentecost Sunday.
Neighbors In Need supports the American Indian Ministry, while the rest supports a wide variety of justice and advocacy efforts. Direct Service Projects within the local church can request and receive grants. Received on World Communion Sunday.
The Christmas Fund helps provide pensions and health premium supplements to low income, retired church workers, emergency assistance to church families in need and Christmas thank you checks to hundreds. Received the Sunday before Christmas.
Because Lake Edge is a part of the larger UCC church and gives collectively to the five church missions, we are considered a five-for-five church. If you look on the BOCO bulletin board, you will notice the large thank you we have received from the national office. Our adults and youth who have attended the UCC national conventions are very proud that Lake Edge has been recognized as a five-for-five church. And as we give to each of these missions, we as a church community can also feel proud. Thank you to each member of Lake Edge. y, you will find an envelope in the church bulletin. Use that envelope to give to one of the four special missions of the UCC church.
The last few years we have participated in Bread for the World letter writing campaigns. We signed letters asking Congress to pass legislation to protect and increase funding for child nutrition programs, global nutrition programs, poverty –focused development assistance and other legislation to preserve and protect food related programs both nationally and globally.
Bread for the World recently sent us information describing their successes.
2015 successes include:
Key provisions of the earned income and child tax credits became permanent. This is a victory for low-income workers and will prevent 16 million people-including 8 million children from falling into or deeper into poverty
Increase of $1.1 billion in poverty-focused development assistance
$10 million increase in funding for global nutrition programs.
Halted passage of a provision in that would have taken away $75 million of food-aid funds and reduced the reach for food-aid programs by 2 million people annually
We should be proud of our support for Bread for the World and its advocacy of programs to preserve and increase funding and programs that provide food and nutrition and development assistance for poor and low income individuals and families.
This is one example of the type of involvement our congregation would have as an economic covenant church.
Lake Edge Members voted to adopt the Economic Justice Covenant at last Sunday’s annual meeting. We could throw a big party. We must get down to work if we are going to live into this covenant. The Christ Centered Justice Team, under the guidance of the Board of Christian Outreach will be educating, guiding and supplying many opportunities for you to fulfill our mission. The only way for CCJT to do this work with you is for you to keep communicating.
There will be a table every third Sunday during Coffee Hour/Worship Café with information you need and CCJT Members for you to ask questions of or talk with on the issues. We will have posts to our website and FaceBook pages that you can respond to and take action on. Please look for eNews and Pink Sheet articles as well as blue sheets for activities to get involved in because without your help our actions and voice will be weak. You can respond to this post with supporting comments and let’s get this covenant in gear and going forward.
Chair, Christ Centered Justice Team