02/27/19

In just a few days from now (Feb. 23-26), General Conference will reconvene during a special called session to discuss human sexuality and the UMC... specifically they will be deciding issues in and around same-sex marriage, appointments of LBGQT clergy and how our church will be organized around three possible solutions.  It is a complex issue and one a group of us from Central, Memorial and the Vine have been discussing these past few months every Wednesday.  The discussions have been good and productive and a little frustrating.  Frustrating, because the reality is... we do not yet know what will happen at General Conference.  Our church (big UMC church) could be majorly changed... changed just a bit... or not changed at all on a legislative and discipline level.  However, one thing is for sure... things will change in the United Methodist Church as churches and fellow Methodist react to the decisions or non-decisions G.C make... we just do not yet know how.  The point of our gatherings this past month was twofold... first, to get the information out and explain the options and issues and second, to prepare us as a body to be ready to make informed and well thought out reactions to whatever may be coming down the pike.  We may not know what that may be right now but those of us in that group know one thing... we will not be caught flat footed... we will not just be reactionary... we will be prayerful, prepared, and intentional.

 

All of this has got me to thinking that we at CUMC need to also prepare ourselves for what may be coming down the road.  Now, we as an individual church must wait just like all the other churches in our conference for the decision of General Conference and their decisions may or may not have a major effect on us as a church.  However, despite what General Conference does or doesn’t do, we at CUMC need to begin to ask ourselves... where do we see our church in five years?  How are we going to live into the call God has placed on us as a body of Christ?  What will our main goals be as a church going forward?  And really, the answer to all of these questions has little to do with what is decided by G.C. at the end of this month... it has everything to do with us and how we live into our call as a body of the church.

 

Financially, this year is going to be a bell weather year.  That is, we as a church are going to understand more succinctly what it means to do ministry with an ever and quickly shrinking source of income.  Granted, we are only two months into the year but it is already looking like we will end the year taking between ten and fifteen thousand dollar dip into our savings and that will be just to pay the basic bills.  Our budget has been cut as far as it can be for comfort... the next budget cuts we will have to make to prevent this savings expenditure will be painful and we as a church need to prepare ourselves for those cuts and start discussing how we will move forward into the coming years having to make more a more cuts or if we just want to spend into our savings (which is not a long term solution)... if things stay the same.

 

People wise, our congregation is holding pretty steady for now.  We are averaging 30 in worship every Sunday and that has been a pretty steady number for the past 4 years.  However, our congregation is also aging with an average age somewhere between 65 and 75.  When it comes to average worship attendance, CUMC has been on a plateau these past few years.  When we reach the edge of that plateau and begin to descend in numbers is anyone’s guess.  But one thing is certain, we will reach the edge and we will find ourselves descending... if things stay the same.

 

So what will CUMC be at the end of the year... at the end of five years?  That is the question we need to start asking ourselves.  We need to actively begin planning for the future... not just to make it to the end of the year but five years from now.  How will Commonwealth still be a part of the Commonwealth community this year and five years from now?  What will that look like?  How will we function as a shrinking congregation?  How will we grow?  What happens if we do not grow?  Can we still be a church with 20 people every Sunday?  15?  10?  How far can we stretch our savings... what is the best use for those savings?  How can we at CUMC continue to fulfill God’s mission for the next year and the next four after that?

 

These are the hard questions we need to ask ourselves... these are the hard answers we need to be willing to discern and hear.  As a church body we need to ask ourselves...

 

Will we be reactionary in the coming years?  Or... Will we be prayerful and intentional? 

 

Prepared for whatever may come or Flat-footed?

 

Grace,

 

Rev.  Steve Kurt