“We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.”
(2 Thessalonians 1:3, NRSV)
Last Sunday, the sermon was about worry and how Jesus instructs us not to do it. That is easier said than done! We naturally worry about our families—especially our children—because we never lose the sense of responsibility for their well-being. During our most productive years, as we’re buying a house, saving for our children’s college expenses, and funding our retirement, we can feel the burden and pressure created by the fear that maybe we haven’t saved enough. And then as we pass midlife, where we speculate that we’ve already lived more than half our lives, we begin to look to the future with uncertainty and maybe even some anxiety, wondering if our life has had much of an impact.
I can relate to concerns about family, finances, and our future as it relates to our congregation. Many of our members are older adults who have faithfully served this church through their leadership, service, and stewardship for several decades. Although they continue to give of themselves, they are ready for some younger leaders to emerge and take on more and more responsibility for our church. We’re focusing on Children and Youth to strengthen their faith so that they will be able to take the reins of leadership at the appropriate time; however, we need more of our adults in their midlife to step up and serve now.
Regarding finances, we had a great Consecration Sunday where we received 106 pledges totaling $566,800 in commitments, with both the number of pledges and the amount pledged running similar to where we were at this point in 2018. If everyone who pledged last year and who hasn’t pledged yet this year comes through with the same commitment for 2020, we’ll see a nice increase in pledges over 2018. I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to increase our budget to do some new things; however, I’m also pragmatic enough to resist counting our chickens before they hatch! I’m not worrying about our finances—but I’m cautiously hoping. For those who have pledged, let me say, “Thank you!” For those who have not pledged yet, please prayerfully consider your giving and let us know what you think God is leading you to do in 2020.
When it comes to the future of our church, I am incredibly hopeful. When it comes to the future of our denomination, I am not as confident, but still optimistic. As a result, I am choosing to focus all my energy on making First UMC of Florence the most vibrant and life-giving church it can be. And when I look around and see the faithful people with whom I get to work alongside in growing this church, my heart is filled with joy and gratitude. I go to bed each night, grateful for this opportunity to serve as your pastor, and I awaken each day with an eagerness to get to the tasks at hand. Thank you for being the kind of church that makes that possible!