Sunday, January 13, 2008

How Lovely are the Messengers that Preach us the Gospel of Peace

Today we had a pre-church meeting about last year's deficit of $53,127.86, the previous year's loss of $46,104.05 today's operating funds of only $8,000, and a 2008budget that includes a $56,076.11 deficit. Where to begin? Since the sermon was short
and sweet by Mary Cat, we can spend the next week solving the financial problems of the Church.
It looks like two years of deficit spending finally generated some interest in the workings of this small corner of the Episcopal Church. The budget numbers presented were sufficient for the pewsters to formulate many theories for the causes, and a number of possible solutions.
Cutting expenses was urged by many today. Expenses in 2005 were $525,310 and had risen to $589,437.11 in 2007. In fact expenses rose $23,000 from 2006-2007 after a deficit of $46,104 in 2006. Seems like belt tightening should have started last year.
One good point raised is that if you already had a deficit last year, shouldn't you delay your capital fund drive until you get your house in order? You don't make a big push for money in November to a future construction project when you should foresee problems covering operating expenses in January.
Are national issues affecting our growth? To me the answer is an obvious yes.
Will we withhold our pledge to the diocese? Why not? After all, they have proven that they will continue to send money to the litigious (and thus unchristian) national TEC.
Is it the liturgical style that turns people away?
Is it the music?
Is it the congregation?
Are local issues affecting our growth?
Clearly, revenues have not increased as they should have over the past few years. $538,988.577 in 2005, $513,846.95 in 2006, and $541,720.60 in 2007. All of this in spite of a marked increase in population in greater Rock Hill and York county. Instead of gaining membership we are static. We have also seen members leave for reasons that were not mentioned at today's meeting. The inside scoop is that several have left because of messages they have heard from the pulpit. This pewster has heard disturbing references from our Rector in the past, but these seem to be more common lately. Are these sermons holding us back? This issue has been addressed on these pages recently by our prayers to help create a loving, positive atmosphere for parishioners and guests. Prayers often are answered in unexpected ways. Perhaps the shortfall of money and the attention it has raised is one of those "That's not the answer I wanted" moments. All I know is that if you want people to sit through a 20 minute sermon and a 90 minute service, people have to hear a beautiful message. No one will come if you preach a gospel of filth, dirt, stink, crap, and whatever other awful words we have endured recently.
This little church has a very involved and friendly congregation. Feed them with the spirit of Christ and they will be fruitful. If you preach a gospel of slime, guess what you get. Mendelssohn had it right in the title of the anthem "How Lovely are the Messengers that Preach us the Gospel of Peace." If you preach it they will come.

23 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:25 AM

    how do we go about a change in leadership of Our Saviour?

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  2. One way would be to complain to the Bishop who can "fire" a priest. The vestry would have to file a complaint with the Bishop. It would be hard to imagine such an action from +Dorsey Henderson although he recently went out on a canonical limb to advise the PB to "inhibit" the Bishop of San Joaquin. Read it here at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/Schofield_Certification.pdf
    REad more commentary on that subject at T19 http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/9167/#comments

    The EDUSC canons are found at http://www.edusc.org/Diocese/Canons.shtml
    I do not have a copy of Our Savior's Bylaws handy but they can be obtained at the office.

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  3. Anonymous7:09 PM

    The juxtaposition -- and, possibly, the implied equation -- of Fr. Foss's sermons to The Black Metal Bible is far from apt, and rather more vituperative than humorous.

    I enjoy the Pewster's observations -- however, I hope the next installment is more irenic, and perhaps less ironic.

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  4. I have had a hard time holding my peaceful or irenic thoughts since I heard those offensive words from the pulpit on Christmas Eve. "Filthy," "stinky," "dirty," and "crap" are cause for biting commentary. I am also offended by the Gospel of Filth record linked in the title. I have not bought any of those records (although I may still have an Alice Cooper record here somewhere). Oops, sorry for that attempt at humor.

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  5. After sleeping on it, Anon's words have led me to remove the offensive juxtaposition. Pax

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  6. Anonymous11:48 AM

    Passionate commitments often manifest themselves in impassioned stylistic choices. Perhaps the original link, and some of Fr. Foss's more provoking word choices, are both examples of "the feeling of the moment?"

    If liturgics are indeed a concern among a few, or some, or many parishoners, then perhaps a dialogue could be opened? An involoved and friendly congregation, and an involved and friendly Rector, could certainly find some common ground....

    I never pictured the Pewster as the Alice Cooper sort. ;)

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  7. Anonymous9:24 AM

    Underground: The Bishop cannot fire a rector. Every rector knows this to be a fact. If a rector needs to go and won't go, it would take a long, painful, canonical process to remove him/her. The only other option--an awful one--is to try to starve them out. The Vestry can reduce their stipend or a significant group in the church can intentionally stop giving.

    p.s.I am also a concerned Christian in Diocese of Upper SC

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  8. No wonder many Episcopal families feel powerless. My feeling is that people are afraid to look at things critically (that is one reason why discussions of the Sunday sermon were forced underground). People would rather leave than fight. Just this week another family left the church for another denomination. This guerrilla campaign will continue however. We have a new vestry which is swinging in the right direction. Unfortunately, I think we fell one vote short of having enough voices to change course.

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  9. palmettopastor7:15 PM

    As a priest in another SC diocese, my hope is that you have had this conversation with the priest in question and not in the parking lot, secret meetings, or on future blogsites. Matthew 18. You and your parish will remain in my prayers.

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  10. We met formally for about 90 minutes. The meeting was before this posting was published, but because of the response I received, I felt compelled to proceed with putting the post out there.

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  11. Admittedly, I'm joining what seems to be a conversation that has been in progress for some time. I found you all over at "Stand Firm".

    As a rector of an Episcopal congregation in another part of the country, I'm particularly interested in how parishioners in your congregation have felt heard/unheard by the parish leadership (and I'm specifically referring to the vestry here) as they have shared their concerns and asked their questions regarding the fiscal issues at your parish.

    In my own context, I constantly think about ways in which parochial leadership is working toward informing the congregation at large regarding fiscal issues (whether those issues are "good" or "bad"). What we have done so far is:

    1. Put a financial summary in every monthly issue of the parish newsletter.

    2. Provide access to vestry minutes in a timely fashion.

    3. Make sure that parishioners are informed of the dates/times of the Vestry meetings...and continue to empahasize that the meetings of the Vestry are open.

    4. Post names/pictures of Vestry members in the parish hall so that parishioners can identify members of the Vestry.

    5. Have "Ask the Vestry Days" (these occur during months with "Fifth Sundays)...when several members of the Vestry, along with the Treasurer are present at a specific location so that people can ask questions or offer feedback to the Vestry directly.

    I wonder how parish leadership (in any parish) is to clearly articulate the "state of the parish". Is the "bottom line" the only line that counts?. If not, what are the other ways of measuring parish vitality?

    I wonder how parish leadership can intentionally open and preserve a space for difficult questions to be posed and wrestled with?

    It seems to me that all of these issues (and probably some that I can't think of) have to be engaged thoughtfully and honestly so that the clergy, vestry and congregation can pray and work together for the common good and for the proclamation of the Gospel.

    One of the things that I have learned in my short time as a rector is that every congregation faces complex challenges that are beyond "knotty". These challenges cannot be solved overnight, neither can they be ignored. Please know that you all remain in my prayers as you put your best efforts forward to untangle all the knots.

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  12. Anonymous1:23 PM

    I grew up in this parish, and have kept in touch over the years. They have a vocal minority that will never be happy, and enjoy slandering others at all cost. Read "On Parishioners Behaving Badly" http://www.capareasouthumc.org/clientimages/35746/newsletterpublished/casnovember2007rev.pdf

    Story #1: DON'T CRITICIZE

    While on a preaching mission in Philadelphia, a woman came to the pastor with some criticism about his preaching.

    Taking a notebook from his pocket he said, "Please repeat that. I'd like to write it down just like you said it, and I want you to sign it." Immediately she disappeared.

    Don't you like the way he handled it?

    I wish someone would invent antiknock gas for Christians as they have done for cars. Then we would run smoothly, work harmoniously and live happily.

    The Bible says, "Don't criticize, and then you won't be criticized. For others will treat you as you treat them."

    Bible Reading: James 4:11-12
    11 Do not speak evil against one another, brethren. He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you that you judge your neighbor?

    In this passage from James, he deals with speaking evil or slander against one another and judging one another. James does not intend for us to see these two things--speaking evil or slandering and judging--as two totally separate practices. To speak evil against another is to judge them. The kind of judging James has in mind here is when we speak a "final" word about another's character, behavior, or value. Often our jealousy of others can lead us to this place of speaking evil against them. We want to put them down, to get back at them somehow because they seem so much happier or better off than we think we are and we are angry and upset. It makes us feel superior to someone else when we speak evil against one another and judge one another.

    Story #2: LUCY THE FAULT FINDER
    Lucy, of the Peanuts comic strip fame, is famous for her fault finding. One day Linus asked her, "Why are you so anxious to criticize me?"

    "I have a knack," Lucy answered, "for seeing other people's faults."

    "But," asked Linus, "what about your own?"

    "I have a knack," she replied, "for overlooking mine."

    God never called us to block, knock, mock, or sock anyone. The Bible says, "Don't criticize and speak evil about each other. If you do, you will be fighting against God's law of loving one another."

    Let us Pray: Keep us from being critical, Father, and make us kind; deliver us from being mean, and make us merciful. Constrain us to be kind to unkind people. And may we never part without loving words: in Christ. Amen.

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  13. Criticism is therefore effectively squashed. This type of response from anonymous is the same kind of "Don't question the Church" mentality that we are still battling after all these centuries. This is another reason why people should have a forum for criticism.

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  14. Anonymous4:02 PM

    I grew up in that parish-it has been unhappy since 1969 when FR. Lumpkin died unexpectedly. Sorry to be critical but its proably not the fault of Fr. Foss. Nobody stays unlucky for 40 years.


    Sorr Our Savior

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  15. Anonymous4:33 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  16. Are you saying, it must be the people? In any failure analysis, the usual finding is that multiple errors go unattended to over a period of time. Blame everyone from society to leadership to the people in the pews, if you may but it would be unwise to blame any single component for the failures of the past. If ECOOS has made it's own bed, it can remake itself through the help of Christ. I still think pleasant language from the rector would help.

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  17. Anonymous6:30 PM

    Dear Underground sPewster, Did it ever occur to you that you are the "Church". If no is listening to you or interested in your ideas, perhaps you might find an alternative place of worship. Somewhere else where you might be happy? I stumbled upon your blog today, and was surprised at the energy that you extend to no purpose other than to satisfy your own ego. You serve no purpose. You are obviously labeled as a troublemaker. Get involved in the church to help build from within; or have all the committees and vestry given up on you and use the phrase "that's just the way they are". Use your energy to do good. It's time to turn, so you don't burn.

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  18. I had to move the above comment because it was entered right before my last response.
    I thank the last Anonymous for the kind words designed to give me that warm feeling.

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  19. I meant "that warm fuzzy feeling."

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  20. Anonymous3:28 PM

    To answer the original question - COOS had a Minister removed from the pulpet for I believe preaching heresy in the early 1970s. It can be done - but please, Charlie does not preach heresy. Here is another bone to chew on - if you agree with everything in every sermon what is the point of attending chruch? Isn't the point of a sermon to occaisionaly instill "out of the comfort zone" thinking, reactions etc? How else are we going to grow as Christians if we don't question and by questioning learn?

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  21. In the world of 2008, with so many diversions, and so many religious sects to choose from, it is no wonder that people come and go between different churches. It all started with the break up of the Beatles.

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  22. Anonymous10:34 PM

    Perhaps a nice gay & lesbian church would be more tolerant of your needs to directly mold the church to meet your ideals. You have been sad for too long at Our Savior. I see you sit in your lonely pew trying your best to appear saintly, only to fall short of your goal to be our supreme leader. PS - Some find you to be offensive, while I find you to be purely entertaining. And I think I would miss you in some demented way.

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