Greetings from the Moderator NOVEMBER 2023
The first Sunday in November is pledge Sunday at Park Lake. The ritual we practice is to bring pledge cards forward and place them in an offering plate. It is a visible way to mark our pledge of commitment to the life of the congregation for the year ahead. The practice of a pledge goes way back. When the Israelites entered the land, they were instructed to bring the first fruits of their harvest to the priests as a sacrifice to God. Before the first grains of the harvest passed their lips, they pledged their commitment to support their community of God’s people in its worship life.
I often think about my grandfather at stewardship time. His life was pledged to God’s service seven years before he was born. His father was a prisoner of the confederacy who vowed that if God would let him live, he would educate a son for the ministry. Grandfather was the next son born. He did not have a choice in the matter. He grew up on a farm among farmers. All of his extended family farmed in upstate New York, but all of his family knew that it would not be so for him. When the time was right, he went off to college and then to seminary and ultimately to the mission field in what is now Pakistan where he spent 42 years. As far as any of us know, he never questioned or resented his status as the fulfillment of a pledge. He just lived it out and stayed in touch with family as best he could half a world away when letters traveled by ship and answers to questions took months to receive.
We have a choice about the level of commitment we will make to the community of God’s people to which we belong through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Every congregation’s session will be preparing a budget for 2024 based on your level of commitment. Your presbytery has begun the budgeting process, too. Council will review the proposed budget at its November meeting and the commissioners to presbytery in December will approve that proposed budget.
The funds your presbytery has to support the witness of our congregations depends on three sources. One that has already been approved for next year is per capita at $25.00 per member which goes to support the work of stated clerks and treasurers at every level of the church beyond the session, office rent and meeting expenses. Another is endowed funds which are designated for specific causes. Due to the generosity of individuals and congregations at the end of their lives and through special offerings, our presbytery has endowment funds designated for church development for new churches and for existing churches, assistance to ministers in emergencies, hunger ministries, and scholarships for seminarians and youth and adults attending conferences. The third source is mission funds received from congregations. It provides for training opportunities and presbytery staff to provide communication, consultation, and pastoral care. When a congregation is looking for a pastor or an individual senses a call to ministry, when there are issues in your congregation that need some outside help, when folks just want to know how to do something, or what the changing demographics of the area around your church are, those are the kinds of things your shared mission dollars provide as well as the chance to join with other Presbyterians in support of shared mission work including compassion ministries, global missions advocacy and mission work in schools, hospitals and agricultural planning assistance that reach people in 73 countries worldwide.
We can do so much more together than any one of us can do alone. I hope you will remember that when your session presents a budget for next year that includes support of your presbytery, synod, and the work of our General Assembly. And knowing what your pledge can do beyond your local congregation, I hope you are proud to support the ministry we share.