Sunday, August 26, 2007

War and Peace

I should have seen it coming. Today's music and lessons were full of things to make old hippies mad. We even sang "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." I forgot how much Charlie dislikes anything that hints of militarism. Too bad that the Bible is full of that kind of stuff, and Charlie admits that our human nature loves war. In today's sermon, we again ignored the gospel lesson for subject material. Episcopalians don't want to hear about the narrow door, not being let into the kingdom, and the first being last. Instead what we really want to hear about is "the Republicans are the party of war and the Democrats are the party of peace." At least that's what I heard. And what about "We do not come here to have our prejudices and biases blessed." Excuse me? I think I just heard a bit of blessed bias coming down on me. And then we were treated to "prayerfully consider the presidential candidates." With that kind of build up who would dare pray for one of those war mongering Republicans? This sermon was too long (22 min), too biased, and I am afraid it was too patronizing (to our Democratic congregants). I hope this sermon doesn't make it into the mainstream press (although I saw at least one member of the press in attendance). I felt like the picture on the right hand side of this blog of the solitary pewster until I heard those around me say "Amen" and "Thank God" at the sermon's close.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Discipline or the Lack Thereof

Today's sermon on "Discipline" was an example of lack of discipline. As I read ahead in our inaccurate bulletin, I saw in the New Testament readings lots of wonderful sermon opportunities. Paul's writing (Hebrews 12: 1-7, 11-14) on God disciplining those whom he loves, and "Endure trials for the sake of discipline" are true gems. Then In the Gospel reading I was hoping Charlie would expound on Luke (12:49-56) where Jesus exclaims that He has come not to bring peace to the earth but division! How more applicable to TEC can this be? I have to assume that Episcopal priests all over the country were quaking in their boots at how to preach this Sunday. This is the stuff we need to hear explained to us lowly pewsters. Instead we were treated to a literal wall spanking by the rector. I agree that our church's walls need repair, but I was afraid something might come crashing down when Charlie left the pulpit and gave the wall a whack in it's peeling panels. That's one way to start a renovation project! Then we had to endure a talk about money which Charlie admits he is not good at. As if to prove the point he claims some parishioners have not raised their giving in the 10 years he has been here.
Getting back to the title of this piece, one word "discipline" was taken out of the context of the scriptures and somehow transplanted into a sermon on our upcoming capital funds campaign. The lack of discipline I observed was the length of the sermon at 20 minutes ran well over the recommend 10-11 minutes. This is likely a consequence of not being disciplined enough to write the sermon down ahead of time.
The pewster's reporters had to help me as my brain goes on "vacare" after 12 minutes. They heard some strange things in the latter half of the sermon including something akin to "we are the government, and we are here to help you."
Please excuse me if I sound harsh, "but spare the rod and spoil the child."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Little Flock

In today's sermon Mary Cat had to deal with the Faith of Abram, Paul's definition of faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen," and Jesus' words "sell your possessions, and give alms...You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." Her sermon was pleasant, but in order to do so, she had to avoid all the unpleasant implications of these scriptures. I would have liked to have seen some comment on "those things hoped for" as it pertains to the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour and the national church. I think we are focusing too much on our wants (hopes) and not our needs as we embark on this new capital fundraising campaign. Also TEC appears too focused on leadership's hopes for it's agenda, that the needs of TEC are being neglected.

The lessons should serve as a call for us to put our faith and money where it is needed and will do the most good. Alas, the pewster is but one sheep in a "little flock" of Episcopalians. If Jesus is right, and the little flock follows the path that leads to "the kingdom," then we will be ready for that "unexpected hour."

The question for the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour is this, are we being led into a pasture created by our hopes and not the needs of the community? Or are we being led down a stray path by our famous "consultants."

The question for TEC is this, is the flock being shepherded into the right pasture? Is TEC ready for that unexpected hour.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Parish Survey Results

In case you have not formulated your own opinion of our parish survey, let me give you the view from the pew.

As background, this survey was done to find out if it is feasible to undertake major renovations at this time. The survey consisted of 27 personal interviews with "leadership" and 130 mailings to parishioners.
Survey respondents appear to be the people who attend 2-4 times a month.
Attendance has been flat for 5 years, but giving is up by $100,000 over 5 years (pages 3-4). My question is "Will the well be running dry soon?"
We have an amazingly high 297 potential giving units (do couples count as 2 units or 1?)38 had No giving, 131 gave < $1000. So 44% of the potential giving units are doing most of the giving. My question is "What potential is there for the 56% to increase giving substantially?

24%(Parishioners)-33% (leadership) have moderately low to very low enthusiasm about the work and programs of ECoOS. The question did not have a "neutral" option. This is one of those glass 1/3 empty or glass 2/3 full issues, but it is very worrisome to me that leadership has such low enthusiasm. (page 9)

Only 4% of leaders feel we meet our financial obligations very well. (92% note some degree of difficulty) Only 60% of Parishioners appear to recognize this difficulty. (page 10)
Then we read the unexpected finding on page 11 that only 55% of leaders feel that adequate financial information is available without asking.
So, if there is inadequate knowledge of the financial situation, this might explain why on page 14 "retiring the debt" ranked last in people's list of priorities.

Next, I have an issue with the goal of the 3 year capital stewardship program being 900,000-1,200,000. Is this because of the response of leaders and parishioners? My response is that the survey did not go low enough in the options presented, especially since the vast majority of people chose the lowest option. I was looking for a 500,000-600,000 choice so I was counted as "No Response" when I believe I penciled something in. (page 15)
Only 70 families indicated a dollar amount they might commit to this campaign. The total was 453,000 (remarkably close to the Pewster's prediction) and remarkably close to the amount needed to pay off the outstanding debt.
On page 25 one person comments "Seven hundred families should be able to support 900,000 to 1,000,000." With informed respondents like that, do you trust the results of the survey?
Charlie should have seen the Bishop wince when he announced the goal of the campaign was in the $1,200,000 range. The last time we carried that much debt we had to withhold our diocesan pledge!

For the text of the report follow the link in the title of this post by clicking the title.