Thoughts on this year’s First Church Commitment Season theme:
“Because of you, our church changes lives”
The world is in flames. Now, more than ever, the world needs the church. To complete the tautology, for that reason now more than ever the church needs you.
The theme of this year’s Commitment Campaign, “Because of you, our church changes lives,” could not speak more directly to the headlines and photos that shock us each morning as we awake to a world so different from the one that occupied our minds drifting to sleep. Please. Think of Palestinians by millions ordered to leave home because terrorists have rendered their small space the place where evil will be forcibly crushed; or of the ever increasing number of migrants crossing our borders and those of our European allies because there’s no hope and only fear, danger, and privation at homes left behind; and of people around the globe suffering assaults from rulers who pretend to be their protagonists but steal their safety, dignity, and worth.
It all brings to mind the oft-sung choir anthem derived from the beautiful text at Matthew 6:19-22: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt and thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Over our adult lives as members of First Congregational, Nan and I have made giving to First Church a priority. And, importantly, we have made a point of doing so by a commitment in writing each year stating the amount we will give and when and how the gift will be paid. There is no other way the church can conduct the essential financial part of being the church – planning for and paying our professional staff, maintaining our worship space, conducting our worship services, educating ourselves and our children, reaching out to unsheltered youth on our city’s streets, advocating for our immigrant community, engaging with the world on a broader scale through the Potomac Association and the national church. The list of the impact we have is long and impressive.
Each year’s gift giving is a matter of choice. We forego alternative ways to spend or disburse those funds and accept tightened budgets because, well, it’s important. And, truth be told, a large part of it is we like you! We enjoy being with you as congregants on this faith journey, and we wholeheartedly embrace the message First Church sends to the often messy, fractured world around us: Act justly, love faithfulness, and walk humbly with your God. We give sustenance to this special place – the very word of God at 10th and G Streets in our nation’s capital – because First Church’s message and mission changes lives and perhaps even parts of the world where there is more hurt than happiness.
But we need to be frank. Many churches struggle financially. First Church will soon create a “Sustainability” Task Force to study our own path to the future. There is little doubt that part of the strategy will include finding ways to produce higher levels of income for the church. We each need to think deeply about treasures on earth and what we want to preserve now, and for our children, and for future generations.
In this time of discernment – the annual First Church Commitment Season – we need to ask: Where will our hearts be also?
Experience teaches that our hearts have a home at 10th and G. May it be so. May it be magnificently and generously so.
With love, blessings, and peace to all –