Sunday, November 6, 2011

Economic Thoughts on a Sunday

Today was "Commitment Sunday" for a capital campaign in the congregation we serve. The leadership team set an incredibly hopeful goal back in September: $600,000. The rationale behind this huge (given the smallish size of the congregation) number was that over the three-year duration of the campaign, enough funds would be received to give away 10% to other ministries and organizations, use 10% for ministry enhancing projects in the facility, and use 80% to completely pay off the congregation's mortgage.
After today's service, the initial gathering of commitments totalled less than a third of the goal. There are still opportunities for folks who were not in worship today to make commitments, and there are additional request letters - to friends of the congregation and folks who've moved out of town - yet to be sent.
I think it would be easy for me - and for the congregation - to feel like we have failed somehow (I'd hoped to hit the 1/3 mark today) - but it's not a failure. A group of people have made a commitment, not just with words, but with finances, to continue in mission and ministry together. The leadership team worked hard and well and has renewed a conversation about what faithful stewardship looks like in real, regular lives. A couple of the members of that team have been so inspired and motivated that they want to keep meeting. (!!)
Over the last several weeks, and again this morning, several people mentioned to me that the timing of the campaign feels difficult to them - good jobs remain scarce, the stock market is volatile enough to inspire fear, coming into winter the ancient fear of scarcity rears its head, and the economic anxiety around the world certainly trickles down, even if economic prosperity rarely seems to.
As people of faith, I believe we are called to recognize the abundance that surrounds us, and to live in faith, not fear. Yes, we may not have enough cash for all of the things we WANT, but it seems like a lot of the time getting the things we want doesn't bring real satisfaction or fulfillment anyway. When we live with the community in mind, and are as discerning as possible when it comes to how we spend, I believe there is reason for hope, and fulfillment to be found outside the shopping mall.
One of the things that has made me crazy for a few years now is the constant reference to Americans as "consumers" instead of as citizens. Here's a great artcile from Abundant Community (I came across the website after reading the book by the same name). Hope it inspires some good thinking and conversation at your house!

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