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Stewardship in a Year of Transition
A reflection by The Rev. Doyt Conn
This is going to seem a topsy-turvy year. Epiphany is in a place of transition in two fundamental ways: rapid congregational growth, and building and grounds dislocation and renovation.
You have probably heard that the Church, Chapel, and Parish Hall will go under construction in the coming year for some much-needed renovation. To accommodate building closures, we will be shifting the times and locations of worship services, coffee hour, and other gatherings. This construction will also affect our budget. Revenue will be reduced by around $40,000 with the closure of the Parish Hall. This reduction is due to lost revenue from Epiphany School and lost rental income in general. That said, I believe that general rental income will go up after the renovation of the Parish Hall because it will be a very attractive venue for events.
While our revenue is temporarily going down, our operating costs are going up. Why? To accommodate a growing parish! This is good news, of course, because the Holy Spirit has energized us toward growth, even as most churches are diminishing in size, and yet with growth comes challenges. Conventional wisdom indicates that church staff grows incrementally in a stair-step function as the congregation grows at the pace of 150 people in church on Sunday. Our average Sunday has crested at 300 and is still climbing. At Fall Kick-Off Sunday on September 7, we had 432 people in church. In 2008 the average Sunday attendance was 113. In response to this growth, we are using Peter Snow to help out more with pastoral visits, funerals, weddings, and picking up services at Horizon House, and Emily Linderman has been hired part-time as the Associate for Staff and Ministry Formation. She manages and supports the staff and ministry leaders, which is becoming more and more complicated. Here is why: at Epiphany we have only five full-time employees, which include Kate, Chinn, Gieth, Nicki, and myself. We run a lean ship, fueled by many part-time staff and many dedicated volunteers, which means we are propelled by many moving parts. Emily’s job is to make sure these parts keep running smoothly. In 2015 we need to add forty hours a week of part-time help in the music department, the business office, and the children and youth department. All of these departments are running full bore. I am grateful to the people that make this happen, and I am worried about their ability to manage the volume of work. This support matters a lot in retaining long-term employees, which is always in the best interests of the church. After all, how we care for and support our staff matters in our ability to carry out our mission of being a place that seeks first the kingdom of God.
All of this transition adds up to increasing expenses and less revenue in the midst of dislocation. This is just that kind of topsy-turvy perfect storm that can cause pledges to falter, just at the time when we most need people to hold steadfast or even step up a bit. And yet, with all of that said, the reality is that stewardship is a spiritual discipline, not a budgetary function. To give and to give big is to recognize the reality of what God has done for each one of us. It is our acknowledgement that God lives and moves and has God’s being right next to us. The tithe is our unqualified, radical “Thank You.” It is not charity. It is an acknowledgement that as God gives us life with no strings attached, we give our tithe with no strings attached.
I often ask people this question: “Is the church your top yearly gift? If not, why not?” This is a sincere question I ask to help me understand the role church plays in someone’s life and also how they view church in relationship to other institutions they support. One thing that often surprises people is that church doesn’t exist to get stuff done. We do not exist to eradicate anything from the world. We are not about getting rid of poverty, creating equitable educational institutions, saving the rain forests, improving healthcare, creating good housing, or advocating for the arts, etc. We are for all of these things, and we encourage people to give toward those things, but the church is different. We are about acknowledging God, thanking God, and learning about God in our minds and with our community. We are about opening our hearts and filling out our souls. And we are also about passing on knowledge of the kingdom of God to the next generation.
And so my prayer is that this stewardship article is helpful in your consideration of your yearly pledge to Epiphany. This is your church, and because of you it is flourishing and seeking faithfully to be the outpost of the kingdom of God we are intended to be.
What Does It Look Like to Love Your Neighbor?
A reflection by Epiphany parishioner and pilgrim Liz Larson
Meet Daoud Nassar | Palestinian, Christian
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Six miles outside of Bethlehem, Daoud manages his 100-acre farm with his extended family, who have owned it for 98 years. His family is unique in that they have legal deeds to their land from the Ottoman occupation and the British occupation of Palestine.
Today the farms of the Nassar family’s Palestinian neighbors are gone, and they have been replaced by Israeli settlements. In the face of their neighbors’ dislocation and the presence of new neighbors, the Nassar family established The Tent of Nations Peace Center on the farm, whose motto is “We Refuse to Be Enemies.”
On Sunday, May 18, 2014, I was present at a dinner given in honor of Daoud in Seattle. The next morning we woke to the news that the Israel Defense Forces had come onto Daoud’s farm while he was in Seattle and bulldozed an entire orchard—1,500 apricot, apple, and grape trees. And still his motto remains: “We Refuse to Be Enemies.” I wonder, would I be able to say the same thing?
Meet Yonatan Shapira | Israeli, Jewish
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Yonatan’s grandparents were early Zionists, who immigrated to Palestine from Europe in 1933 when the Zionist movement was a nationalist movement. His father was an Israeli Air Force squadron commander in the 1973 Yom Kuppur war. Yonatan became a helicopter pilot in the Israeli Air Force.
Yonatan began to reconsider how he viewed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When a one-ton bomb was dropped in Gaza, targeting one “terrorist,” but killing 15 people and wounding 150 people, he began to wonder at the short- and long-term efficacy of the strategy of war to secure peace.
In 2003, Yonatan, along with a group of pilots including a brigadier general, wrote an open letter to the Israeli public, agreeing to defend Israel, but refusing to drop bombs into civilian populations. All these pilots were dismissed.
In the film, Little Town of Bethlehem, Yonatan tells his story. As I watched it I kept thinking, this man actually laid down his life, a life he loved, for his friends. I wondered, would I do the same thing?
It has been almost 30 years since I watched the epic documentary, Shoah. The literal translation of shoah is “catastrophe.” This is a nine-an-a-half-hour documentary of first-person accounts of the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazi government of Germany in World War II.
The movie left a deep impression on me, and made me wonder if I would have the courage to take action if I were a witness to such evil.
Many would find it impossible to compare the Holocaust to what is happening in any corner of the world, let alone what is happening in Palestine. And yet this situation can be inspiration to study peace and to consider the role we play in building relationships between people who seem to be in intractable conflict. I was inspired after participating in the parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2013 to more deeply engage in the current Palestinian-Israeli discord. I have been moved to take action.
Part of my resolve to be more involved begins with learning more about the situation. The stories of Daoud Nassar and Yonatan Shapira have been a good place to start. But another part of my resolve leads to the deeper spiritual question, how would I act as a follower of Jesus if I found myself in some intractable conflict? How do I act in strength as a person of peace?
Please continue to pray with me for peace in the Holy Land.
You are invited to join the Steadfast Hope study group on peace, starting on Thursday, October 2, at 7–9 pm in the Christie House Library.
Reminder: Animals in Church This Sunday
First of all, bring your pets, stuffed animals, and other creatures to church on Sunday at the 10:30 service to be blessed in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. Secondly, please note the following logistical items:
- Please be sure to box and leash your animals appropriately, but be prepared for a little chaos underfoot.
- The balcony will be the designated “dog-free zone.”
- If you have animal-induced allergies, you may want to consider attending the 8 am service in the Chapel.
- Children will join their parents during the Peace and stay with their families through the end of the service. If you are unable to sit with your child during the service, please let Elizabeth Walker know during Check-in at The Meeting Place.
YWCA Halloween Drive
It’s that season again. The days are getting shorter, (and soggier), the mornings are getting cooler, and Halloween is nearly upon us. This year, we will be collecting candy, pumpkins, carving kits, costumes, and other fun Halloween-themed items for the kids at the YWCA. Bring in your donations by Sunday, October 26! The ghoulies and ghosties will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
—Epiphany’s Service & Outreach Committee
An Update from the Building Team
The Building Team has been working with the mechanical and electrical contractors in an effort to refine their scope of work. We have spent time considering the options available for the disposition of the organ in the Chapel and Tom Foster has been working diligently to find a new home for it. We also continue to refine the requirements for the acoustic renovations in the Church.
The Next 100 Years Building Team
Ed Emerson, Laura Blackmore, Bob Barnes, Jim Marlow, Ben Bradstreet
Contact the Building Team at email@example.com
Parish Prayer List
Download this week’s Prayer List by clicking here.
Sunday Lectionary Corner
October 5, 2014
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
Click here for details and descriptions of events in the life of the parish and beyond.