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.