Stewardship Reflection from First Church Member Diane Brenneman
Sometime back in 2013, my husband Lyle and I started thinking we should find a church family. We were getting older and would be retiring and eventually one or the other of us would be alone. We wanted to be involved in a spiritual community that really cared for each other and believed in service for others. This was not going to be easy. Although Lyle was an ordained, but non practicing, minister in the Disciples of Christ and I was a non practicing Catholic, educated by the Jesuits, we had spent all of our adult lives together as free lance Christians working in International Development and Social Justice. We thought we needed to upgrade our practice of Christian values into something a little more institutional and formal, even though we both had a distinct bias against the institutional Church. Because we could both plausibly promise the other we would be happy in whatever choice the other made, we were immediately at a stalemate. While Lyle was out of the country, my job then was to find a few Protestant churches for us to check out.
I hadn’t started my list yet when, on my way home from Court, I was surprised to see Nick McConnell on the subway. We are long time friends through our bar association travels and activities. I asked him where he was going and he said choir practice! Another surprise. I then told him of Lyle’s and my search and he told me to drop by First Church anytime, no pressure, just see how we like it. I took note that the full name was First Congregational United Church of Christ.
The next week, my “sister in the law” Ann Bushmiller and I were riding home on the subway from the Women’s Bar Association annual dinner. She often had mentioned the many church activities she and her family participated in. I told her about my quest and asked her what churches she might recommend. She said First Church. I asked if she knew Nick and she said yes, of course, how do I know Nick. And, yes, Lyle and I should just come any Sunday, no pressure. Needless to say, in my mind, the search was over. Two totally different friends whose judgment and kindness I had come to trust in very different scenarios were saying the same thing with great joy and enthusiasm. You are welcome to come visit First Church. So we did. Dropping in here and there starting in 2013 and then committing ourselves to membership in 2015. This was a big deal. My sense of the meaning of commitment is serious and solemn and perpetual, rooted in love; like Lyle’s and my relationship to each other and our children.
As part of our commitment, I was trying to figure out what tithing or pledging would mean. Is there some kind of formula, percentage of income, amount of time? No one had an answer to my questions, but almost everyone did answer “Give anything you want or are able to give.” That just didn’t sound right to me. Very Christian, but, I mean, somebody has to keep the lights on and a roof over our community. At first “anything” sounded like any loose change under the sofa pillows. Or just grab “anything” leftover in the fridge. Now I think that if I emphasize the love behind “anything” as in I’d give “anything” to make you well…or I’d do “anything” for you because I love you. How much is that? That might be “everything”.
Lyle and I found our church family here. And it was with great joy and sadness that we celebrated Lyle’s life in August 2017 in our sanctuary and sang him out. And I am the one who is alone, except that I am part of this First Church family of people committed to continue to do good in the world. I love that First Church family shows up, no matter what. I am determined to be a good steward and give anything I can every year to ensure the gifts of First Church will continue into the future for this family and all who will need them.
May our “anything” gifts together become “everything” the Church needs to change lives.
Keep Awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour because the time is NOW.