If you love this church, 'it's time to say thanks'
It is hard to read the United Church News and not feel a twinge of anxiety. The financial picture is bleak.
Despite reports that the economy is growing, I do not seem to run into too many people who are benefiting. But then I comfort myself by thinking, "Oh it's going to turn around any day now," and I go about my busy life, full of plenty of other demands.
But for months now it keeps coming back to me and I have to wonder, "If we are all sitting around waiting for the magical day when it gets better, when giving to Our Church's Wider Mission [OCWM] actually rises, then who is doing anything about making it happen?"
I write this piece as a challenge to myself and to all out there that claim the UCC as your own. For all who are so proud of the stances we take, the prophetic witness we bear in a hungry and hurting world, for all that have found an Open and Affirming word of hope, it is time to say thanks.
For my lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning brothers and sisters, and our allies, who hungered for an inclusive church, well, we got it and, sometimes, at a cost to the denomination. The UCC has been there for us. Now I think the question is, "What are we willing to do for them?"
There are many issues, many causes vying for our attention and I know many of us feel overwhelmed by the demand for aid bombarding us each week. I am not suggesting that we stop giving to our five special mission offerings, or the tsunamis and hurricanes, but I am suggesting that we not neglect our basic support.
It is our OCWM offerings that keep the engine running. We have all felt the consequences of a church with strained resources and increasing demands. Many take different attitude of, "Who are these people? What have they done for us? Do we really need them? What is the point? Where is the pay off?"
Who are these people? These are the ones throughout history who gave us our identity in the first place. They are the ones who have committed their lives to us, not for the fame or money, but because they love the church and believed in it. God has called them to us.
What have they done for us? The wider church has provided us clergy and lay leader training. It has given us voice on issues of education, health care, poverty, racism and more. It has given us the loans and grants that kept our little ships afloat. It has given us Sunday school curriculums and worship resources.
Do we really need them? Only if covenant is important to us: belonging and caring for something beyond our own narrow walls. Only if we recognize that we can do - and have done - so much more together than we could ever do alone.
It is "covenant" that is the point. It is "covenant" that is the pay off. We have made covenantal statements - promises to and from all of us, whether clergy or lay - to support the ministry of our wider church. And now is the time!
Yes, ministries of the Conference and the denomination have sometimes fallen short of our expectations. But I ask you: What church, institution or family has not fallen short? And when have you not fallen short? Maybe that is when they need us most. Maybe it's time to ask the question, "What can we do for them?"
When the young man asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus turned the question around and showed him how to be a neighbor to others. Today, if we ask Jesus, "What has the wider church done for us?" perhaps he'll suggest that a better question is, "What have you done for it?"
Let's each take that question to Jesus, and see how he replies.
The Rev. Dee Lundberg is interim pastor at Montevideo UCC and Granite Falls UCC in Minnesota.