We are an involved congregation, we love to get our hands dirty in harvest, love to penetrate issues political and social. We take stands on issues that have consequences in other people’s lives. We are all active in many ways, caring out compassion in our neighborhoods, are schools, work, family, in the world, and not only as church. Our faith commitment is expressed in as many ways as there are members of our church family. One size definitely does not fit all!
Our session, the other day, reviewed our finances for 2015 and gratefully remarked that giving has increased. They had a brief discussion as to why that may be. Certainly the economy is doing better, certainly we have talked more about what it means to be committed to the work of the church and of course we have more folks who are willing to make that commitment, but overall it was hard to pin down a concrete cause and effect.
Another reason occurred to me, that because the elders have encouraged you all to increase your giving for compassion, what we call giving beyond ourselves. They also have continually raised the bar in the number of recipients, both globally and locally. We have raised the percentage of our budget for compassion the last few years, a long time goal of session, and the congregation has responded. I believe that because we are an involved congregation, we sense our call to be and are excited to be involved in the lives of others through compassion.
We believe in the dignity of all, created in God’s image, in empowerment through long-term relationships, as well as holistic ministry, focusing on faith, families, water, human rights, homes and food. We seek to be relevant in God’s world in this rapidly changing world, where local and global concerns converge in new ways, maintaining our centrality in Christ. Whenever possible we focus on our ecumenical family and with partners of other faiths. Being urban people, sensitive to diversity and engaged in issues and concerns and compassion for our world, we cannot help but contribute financially where we believe Christ’s healing needs to take place. God’s good news needs to be known and human hearts can be transformed through justice and love.
Just as fire burns so does the church exist to express compassion that touches lives, not just our next-door neighbor but those far afield, for all our sisters and brothers in Christ, all intentionally created in God’s image, all with dignity, meaning and hope.
The session is working hard to use the reserve funds we do have to maintain and upgrade our building for our ministries. You will be seeing in the next few weeks new pews and new hymnals, and in the not so far away future, new wiring (replacing the 1950’s circuits) and new lighting to give brilliance and safety to our sanctuary and all upstairs.
Some of you will know and remember Bernice Petty, who died three years ago. She was generous in her love and support for Saint John’s even as she lived in the north bay the last half of her life. She was a member beginning in 1930, in her youth, along with her family who were involved at St. John’s since 1906. Their family tradition was to enhance the beauty and everyday use of the sanctuary. Bernice’s parents were members until the 1940’s and numerous additions and changes to the sanctuary, beginning in the 1950’s, were made in honor of them, including the 1970’s sound system. Her sister and brother-in-law gave the pew cushions in 1990. So there was a conscious habit on their part to enhance the appearance and functionality of the sanctuary. So in that family tradition, our new pews are dedicated to Bernice’s life of commitment, and her pursuit of the St. John’s vision to provide a sanctuary that welcomes all people, that functions in a practical way and expresses God’s real presence. We are grateful for Bernice, her love of St. John’s, but mostly for her care and hope for its people, and so we will celebrate her memory as we enjoy our new pews for the maintenance of worship and the glory of God.
Session will be placing a plaque on the sanctuary wall, to honor her.
Together we celebrate our past – those who have gone before us, and celebrate our future – those now among us and those who are yet to be with us!