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Realizing that its closure was a real possibility, First Presbyterian Church in Winneconne, Wisconsin, called the Rev. Rose McCurdy as pastor to help the congregation find new life. One of its strengths was generosity toward local mission, but McCurdy sensed the congregation needed to extend its involvement beyond its community. When McCurdy picked up the Presbyterian Giving Catalog, she saw a resource that could help her struggling congregation in its quest for renewal. She saw the catalog as an avenue for increased mission participation, and the congregation’s mission committee agreed with her.
This isn’t a story about how a small church runs a big program. It’s not a story about how a small church grows into a bigger church. It’s a story about the lessons a group of adults learned from a handful of children as God challenged the adults to try something new.
Politics are personal. As God’s people, we feel our politics. When we watch the news or read it on our iPad, we experience a potpourri of emotions. We get excited, angry, demoralized, indignant, frustrated and more. Some of us take a sabbath from Facebook, while others turn off Twitter.
Living in Honduras during the spring and summer has felt especially difficult and intense. What started as a labor dispute between teachers’ and doctors’ unions and the government has become agitation against government corruption and economic desperation. Classrooms from elementary to university have been closed at various times, and public hospitals have not been attending patients. Taxi and bus drivers have been occasionally involved in blocking streets and shutting down cities. The U.S. Embassy was vandalized and has been partially closed.
The postlude played. I stood at the sanctuary door, greeting congregants as they made their way to coffee hour. On this day, though, I wasn’t sharing pleasantries as I shook hands. I was anointing with oil a hand of each person exiting the sanctuary. As I made the sign of a cross on each palm, I gave a blessing: Be the beautiful you God sees you to be.
Burnout. Just reading the word is enough to cause the shoulders to droop, the body to want to curl up in a ball and find somewhere to rest. For many church leaders it can be an ever-present companion in the life and ministry of the congregation.
One of my earliest memories of feeling fully spiritually alive beyond the church was in my mother’s kitchen. My family often entertained guests, and the time put into preparing meals was a gesture of hospitality and caregiving.
The Presbyterian Church of the Siuslaw in Florence, Oregon, displays a large Celtic cross on its property. That cross inspired a unique ministry for longtime church member Andy J. LaTomme Jr. For nearly three decades, the 99-year-old has been giving out wooden replicas of that cross to church members and visitors alike.
In the minds of many Presbyterians, the concept of stewardship is forever linked to the church’s fall fundraising campaign to support the budget. This multi-week drive culminates in “Stewardship Sunday,” during which pledge cards are brought forward and prayers are offered that the money represented there will be enough. This process makes some people so uncomfortable that they confess to skipping church, claiming, “I don’t want to listen to talk about money for an entire month.”
The pastor glumly ordered a salad with dressing on the side. Her lunch companion wondered whether her friend would rather have had a greasy hamburger instead. The pastor’s sour mood, though, wasn’t about healthy food choices. It was about the choice her session had made to lock the doors during Sunday morning worship.