During the past month, I attended two Saturday mini-conferences that looked at the prospects for the Christian church and its American congregations in the near future.
The first event was sponsored by Lutherans here on Long Island and featured a lot of practical information about congregation building. Two words of wisdom that summarize a lot of that day are:
“People are drawn to a church with a purpose.” The speaker suggested focusing church attention on one or two community needs.
“People are drawn to a church when they can see that it is changing lives.”
This speaker had quite a bit to say about stewardship practices and evangelism, and I hope to share those with you as occasions for that kind of discussion arise.
The second event was a day-long mini-conference sponsored by the Presbytery of Long Island that featured Rev. Brian McLaren, a nationally recognized thinker and author on the future of Christianity in our country. This man grew up as a fundamentalist but has now changed his mind about a lot of theological things. Early in his remarks he challenged us by saying that many Christians now are trying to “save” their churches, but we need to consider Christ’s words when he said that someone who wants to save his or her life must lose it. What might that mean for us in terms of the life of our church? He told an inspiring story about a church in England that began to work with kids who were using the church parking lot for skateboard activities. Rather than chasing the youngsters away, the church people found a way to organize the skating activity and even got the young people to think about God and their own lives.
Church members who attended the McLaren conference with me were: Arlene Griemsmann, Maria Studer, Joan Tischner, Carol Teta, Camille Hartman, Sharon Slade and Janice Kincaid.
November is stewardship month, the time of year we ask all members to let the Session know what you will give in the coming year of 2019. Over the past three years, I have been thankful for the faithfulness of the membership in giving. Your pledged giving goes toward two important things:
1) Maintenance of our buildings, which not only are our places of worship but that host many community activities. Everything from AA to boy scouts to basketball leagues to dance and yoga classes are benefiting from the space we provide at modest rents. All these groups would find it difficult to find other places to meet if we were not here.
2) Support of our worship and Christian Education programs. As a Presbyterian Church, we value the leadership of trained clergy and the volunteer service of our Sunday School teachers and Gathering organizers.
In thinking about financial needs in the coming year, I would advise you that there are no plans to close either of our two properties. By December I expect the Session will make a firm commitment to maintain both our pre-schools through June, 2020. Our financial performance during 2019 will be an important indicator of whether we should support both buildings beyond June, 2020.