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Collin's Column: Spent

UPDATE FROM NOVEMBER 19, 2020

Greetings all in the name of Christ!

 
This week in worship, we’ll conclude our sermon series on Spent.  For the past few weeks, we’ve been studying what both Jesus and John Wesley said about money.  In a sermon given in 1759, Wesley tells us that we should: 1) earn all we can, 2) save all we can, and 3) give all we can.  We’ve made our way through the first two and this Sunday in worship, we will be concentrating our energies on the 3rd rule that Wesley laid out for us:  give all we can.  We’ll also add to that the why behind giving.  As in, “Why should we give all we can?”
 
First of all, the bible talks about tithing, or giving 10% percent of what we earn, back to the church.  The belief behind the idea of tithing is that everything we have is from God and therefore belonged to God before it belonged to us.  So by tithing, we’re simply giving back to God some of which God first gave to us.  Often, we use interchangeably the words giving and tithing.  But they are not the same.  Tithing IS giving.  But giving isn’t necessarily tithing.  We also tend to use giving of our time or talents as a substitute for giving of our money but, again, these aren’t the same thing.  When we join a congregation in the United Methodist Church, we promise to be loyal to the church in 5 separate and distinct ways.  We promise to give to the church through our, “
…prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.”  And honestly, that’s super hard to do.  But anything worth doing usually isn’t easy, and I believe that helping the church to thrive is worth doing.
 
With all of the above in mind, I believe an important question to ask of yourself is, “Am I giving all that I can?”  It can be a hard and perhaps somewhat uncomfortable question to answer.  But nevertheless, it remains an important question to answer.  For some of us, it might be important to first realize exactly WHAT we give.  Some of us give to the church automatically, and we never give it a second thought, while others of us simply do not give at all. But I think awareness is important, so if you aren’t sure what you give to the church, find out!  And then compare it to what you can afford to give and then, if there is a gap, do what you can to close the gap. 
 
While I believe it starts with tithing, and I further believe that tithing is the standard towards which we should work, I want to follow that up with the idea that the actual amount is less important.  Some of us simply can’t afford to give 10%, and that’s ok.  What I think is important is that we’re giving frequently and sacrificially. For some of us, that means that we can afford to give literally tens of thousands of dollars a year to the church.  And some of you do.  For others of us, it means literally hundreds of dollars a year to the church.  And some of you do.  However, it is important to realize that neither amount is more important than the other.  What is most important is that you’re giving as often as you can and, as John Wesley succinctly put it, as much as you can.  Are you?
 
I can’t wait to see you this Sunday in the GIVING IS A JOY place.
 
Yours in Christ,
Collin
 
UPDATE FROM NOVEMBER 19, 2020
MERGER UPDATE
Greetings all in the name of Christ!
 
As promised, here is an update on the potential merger with Chapelwood UMC.  The Future with Hope committee met for the first time this week, and I thought it was a very positive and productive meeting.  We spent some time in prayer before we started our work together and then talked about a potential process moving forward.  Though we didn’t decide on how precisely we should proceed, we made a commitment to come back together next week to create, both a covenant together to concisely and clearly state our purpose so that we’re all on the same page. 
 
We then spent the balance of our time working through a long list of questions.  Some questions were fairly easy to generate answers to while some others need some further consultation with the Book of Discipline.  While we were not able to get through all of the questions yet, we were pleased with the progress.  Through our website, we decided to release a list of FAQ’s that will allow us to address as many questions as possible as widely as possible.  Some financial information will be kept in house (as in for church members only) since we don’t feel comfortable broadcasting that to the entire world via our website.  Those financial pieces we wish to keep in house will be shared via an all church email later this week.
 
More next week!
 
Your servant in Christ,
Collin
 
 
 

UPDATE FROM NOVEMBER 12, 2020

Greetings all in the name of Christ!

 
As a reminder, we’re returning to in person worship THIS SUNDAY November 15. If you plan to attend in person worship, there are a few important things of which I want you to aware of.  Firstly, we’re monitoring the positivity in Harris county daily, and if it reaches 10% or above, we will immediately cease in person worship.  As of this writing, the positivity rate is 7.8% for Harris County.  If you attend worship this Sunday, you must stay 6 feet apart from persons outside your immediate family group and wear masks at all times, including during hymns.  If you’re maskless, you’ll be politely asked to put your mask on or retrieve it from your car.
 
To help manage expectations, you’ll need to prepare for a slightly different service than you’re used to.  In order to keep worship as contactless as possible:
  1. We will not be providing bulletins.  You can access the worship order on our website each week under the worship tab.  For convenience, we will be providing QR codes that will take you directly to the order of worship. 
  2. Also, we will not pass the offering plate.  You will need to drop your check or cash in a basket on the way into or out of worship OR give online.
  3. Attendance pads will not be in the pews.  Again, the church will be providing a QR code that you can scan with your smartphone, and sign your attendance electronically.
  4. The sanctuary is taped off to help us know where to sit.  Every other pew is not being used right now.  Also, there are bigger places for families to gather, and smaller places for couples or single people to sit.
  5. We will not be passing the peace during worship.  We don’t want to encourage handshakes or hugs in this strange time, so we just took it out of worship altogether.
 
This week, even with all the strange new experiences accompanying our return to worship, we will continue our sermon series on money.  If you’ll remember with me, we’re talking about what Jesus said about money and framing it through what John Wesley said about it.  This week, we’ll concentrate on the aspect of saving as much money as you can.  John Wesley had quite a lot to say about this, and I’m looking forward to sharing some of it with you!
 
Finally, we will absolutely continue to offer an online worship experience as long as we can.  I feel as though this is of vital importance right now because if you feel uncomfortable participating in, in-person worship, we still want to offer a worship experience for you.  I would strongly encourage you that if you feel uncomfortable gathering in crowds or if you’ve been sick in the last two weeks to just stick with online worship for now.  We’ll be here when the time is right for you.
 
I can’t wait to see you in person or online this Sunday in the GOD WILL BE PRAISED NO MATTER WHAT place.
 
Yours in Christ,
Collin
 
UPDATE FROM NOVEMBER 12, 2020
MERGER UPDATE
Greetings all in the name Christ!
 
This is a second column that I’ll be writing each week for the foreseeable future.  The only purpose here will be to update you on where we are with the potential merger with Chapelwood.  Occasionally, the only update to share will be that there is no update, but that is my commitment to you. 
 
The Future with Hope committee (merger committee) will meet for the first time next week, and begin working on a series of questions that some of you have developed on your own.  We will be able to answer some of these questions on our own, while some of these questions will need to be answered by various staff members at Chapelwood.  It will take a while to work through them all because the merger committee will also begin receiving questions from the general congregation.  You’ll have the opportunity to submit these questions to the merger committee through a series of Zoom calls that we’ll begin hosting as soon as possible.  These calls will collectively be called, “Cornerstone Conversations.”  AS we have been doing, we will make continue to make arrangements for members who don’t know how to use Zoom or don’t have access to the Internet.  The idea is that these calls will be limited to 10-12 people so that we can have a slightly more intimate experience, to the extent we can.
 
Timeline
While I had hoped to have this merger tied up by the end of the year, it is clear that we need to slow down and spend more time on this very important decision.  While we cannot financially afford to take too much time, I believe that we’ll be able to slow the process somewhat so that can have time for all congregation members to have more input.  Once the Future with Hope committee has had time to wrap it’s collective brain around the topic, we might be able to share a firmer timeline.
 
Process
The Future with Hope committee will be working on creating a process through which we can work.  While we all need to understand that this process is very fluid at the time, I expect that we will arrive at something like the following:
 
  1. Cornerstone Conversations
  2. Get as many questions answered as we can through internal conversation, as well as through conversation with Chapelwood.
  3. Consensus created within Future with Hope committee
  4. Recommendation to Church Council on the next action steps with regards to merging or not.
  5. Church Council approves recommendation or not.
  6. If the recommendation is to merge, and the Church Council approves the recommendation, the Future with Hope committee will continue to meet in order to create a merger document.
  7. Merger document is shared with the Church Council for discussion.
  8. If the merger document is approved, a Church Conference will be scheduled.
  9. Church Conference will meet, chaired by our District Superintendent, to approve the merger or not.
 
Please DO NOT assume that the process will go exactly like that because, as mentioned before, this is fluid.  Further, there is no well-defined process in the Book of Discipline for mergers to follow.  We have to proceed with how we think best.  This will inevitably involve a few twists and turns which we cannot anticipate right now.  My hope and prayer for us is that we, as a congregation, will trust the pastor (me) and the leaders being put in place by the Nominations Committee to do what they believe is best for Grace UMC.
 
Please understand that any merger cannot be pushed through by the pastor, the Future with Hope committee, or even the Church Council.  The only way we will proceed with a merger is by the approval of a Church Conference.  A Church Conference is similar to a Charge Conference, but all church members are invited to vote.  It is literally a church wide vote.
 
More next week!
 
Your servant in Christ,
Collin
 
 

UPDATE FROM NOVEMBER 5, 2020

Greetings all in the name of Christ!

 
This Sunday in worship, we are beginning a new sermon series called, “Spent.”  And at the front, I admit that the series title has a sort of layered meaning.  One meaning is totally emotional.  For instance, as the election season draws to a close (hopefully) and we still don’t have a clear idea of who the president will be for the next four years, I have to admit that I am feeling a little bit spent.  As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep our nation, I have to admit that I am feeling a little bit spent.  So, part of what we’ll be addressing over the next few weeks is how we sometimes feel spent and what we do about that.
 
Another aspect on which we’ll be focusing is money.  Jesus preached and taught about money more than any other topic.  It was clearly something he knew we need advice on.  To help guide these discussions, we’ll frame what Jesus taught about money through what John Wesley said about finances.  And as John Wesley often did, he boiled it down into three easy concepts:  1) Earn all you can, 2) Save all you can and 3) Give all you can.  We’ll discuss home finances, and we’ll also address church finances.  This isn’t our stewardship drive just yet, but when we get there we will definitely be referencing what Wesley taught us through what Jesus said.
 
Next, a word about returning to worship.  Our reopening committee has been meeting on and off for the last several months, and we targeted November 15 as a potential day for a return to in-person worship.  As long as the COVID-19 positivity rate stays below 10%, we will start in-person worship again on Sunday, November 15.  At the time of this writing, the two week rolling average for Harris County is 8.1%.  It is rising and has been rising for the last 4 weeks, but it still below 10%.  Also, I’d love for you to TAKE THIS SURVEY letting us know if you plan to attend worship once we begin in-person worship again.  As a note, we will still continue offering our online worship services, too.  Just because some of us may return to the sanctuary, we will not abandon those who do not yet feel comfortable.
 
Finally, I want to invite you to a church wide meeting on Wednesday, November 11th at 7:00 PM.  This will be done via Zoom but, as usual with these church wide meetings, we will have the meeting broadcast in the Sanctuary.  I’ll be giving a presentation on where were are financially as a church, and I’ll also be sharing the school’s finances as well.  We’ll have a question and answer period after that.  A budget for 2021 for Grace Weekday School has been prepared, and the school board reviewed it last night.  Now that the school budget has been prepared, we can start creating the church budget for 2021.  Once that is prepared, it will go before the finance committee soon for approval, and then before the church council for final approval.
 
See you this Sunday in the ARE WE TOTALLY SPENT PLACE!
 
Yours in Christ,
Collin
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