Last night I chaired my first church meeting. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, having attended a fair number in my time and not always having found them especially useful or spiritually enriching. Last night, though, I came away with my growing attachment to the congregations I have been called to minister among greatly strengthened. This was largely because of a discussion we had about money, more specifically about our contribution to the URC’s Ministry and Mission (M&M) fund for 2013.
M&M is the main financial lifeblood of the URC as a denomination. In particular the stipends of all its ministers and Church Related Community Workers come out of it, as well as the funding of the various education (mostly of new ministers), mission, youth work and other central departments.
Local churches have suggested contributions worked out according to a (rather mysterious but I think income based) formula but then have to decide for themselves how to contribute. Last night, despite our local budget being in deficit the church meeting decided to contribute at around 6 per cent above our suggested level. This is good, I think. We are a relatively well endowed church community and it seems appropriate for us to share that with the wider denomination. What really impressed my though was the tenor of the discussion.
There was a seriousness about money combined with a seriousness about being the church and doing its work. People listened to one another but also, I felt, paused to listen for the Spirit. There was a sober realism about the nature and difficulties of our local fellowship without any gloom or misery. There was a strong sense of a faithful trust in God’s leading of us to where we are and where we are to go.
People expressed their views about the various aspects of the church’s work and life and the relative priorities to be given to them but were not scornful of the priorities of others.
Wishes were voiced for the future but in an atmosphere of hopeful expectation rather than of anxiety or hectoring.
A consensus was gradually established without the nuances of the range of starting points being hidden or smothered.
The link between money and spirituality (about which I’ve written before, here) was acknowledged without tipping over into either a worldly concentration on numbers or a sentimental evocation of otherworldliness.
All in all I was confirmed in my view that this church community, like the other one I am working with, is one whose common life is marked by a mature and confident sense of its own identity and mission.