Dear Church Family,
THANK YOU for your thoughtful and loving gestures to me during “Pastor Appreciation Month” in the United Methodist Church. The festive cake, the children’s cards and posters, the portrait of yours truly created by Andi Craig, and the booklet of photos and personal messages pulled together by Kathy Craig were all reminders of why I appreciate you so much!
And what better time to express my appreciation for you than in close proximity to October 20, Laity Sunday! Thank you to Rynn Naylor for preaching such a substantial sermon about lay ministry, to the others who planned and led the worship hour, and to all of you for your faithful leadership and service to our congregation and community.
The fall season always ratchets up the level of activity in a local church. But this fall is especially intense because we are addressing concerns and celebrating milestones that don’t come along every year.
FINANCE/STEWARDSHIP – The Finance Committee has informed us that we are running a significant budget deficit in 2019. Last year’s stewardship campaign yielded an encouraging increase in pledges, but our current deficit is traceable in part to a gap between income pledged and income received. The Finance Committee has challenged all of us to bring our pledged giving for 2019 up to date. The committee is also exploring ways of reducing church expenses. We want to be careful stewards of our monies, programs, and properties; but such a commitment can force us to make difficult choices.
Two cases in point: (1) the Trustees and the Church Council have resumed discussion about the potential sale of the second parsonage at #20 Church Street; and (2) the Staff-Parish Relations Committee and Church Council have pondered the possibility of making WUMC’s pastoral appointment less than full-time. The truth is that each of our options for cutting expenses has a down side. The key to our church’s financial future lies as always in our faithfulness as individual givers. To that end, the Stewardship Committee is planning another New Consecration Sunday for November 17. This stewardship program is biblically-based, positive, and proven to be effective. Our own Rev. Paul Hibbard will be leading this emphasis and preaching that day.
DENOMINATIONAL CONCERNS – United Methodists are a “connectional” Church. Among other things, this means that policies adopted at the world-wide level affect us at the grass roots level. The February, 2019, Special Session of General Conference voted to reaffirm and strengthen the “traditionalist” stance toward the LGBTQI community. Regional conferences and local congregations will eventually have to respond to this decision. For understandable reasons, facing such a contentious issue head-on pushes a lot of Methodists out of their comfort zones and creates concern about potential conflict and division within congregations. However, our own Church Council concluded that this issue cannot and should not be ignored or avoided. They opted instead to be pro-active, creating an “Our Way Forward Together” Committee to lead WUMC in a thoughtful, respectful discussion of this issue. They recently conducted a survey to elicit our congregation’s views about homosexuality and church policy toward persons who are homosexual. Over 60 persons completed the survey, which represents a remarkable degree of participation. Results will be shared in the near future. To underscore two vital points: (1) when the survey was developed and administered, there were no foregone conclusions about our own church’s future policy on homosexuality; and (2) the survey itself was not a vote. We are still awaiting further developments in the wider Church which may offer us alternative ways of remaining “connected” Methodists. Only then would a congregational vote serve a purpose and perhaps even be necessary. In the meantime, thank you for your courage in registering your views on a controversial matter and furthering our dialogue as a church family.
SANCTUARY DEDICATION – Here is an item on our fall agenda that is not only out-of-theordinary, but extra-ordinary! After years of lively discussion, generous giving, and hard work, we have finally realized our vision of a refurbished sanctuary. Now it’s time to celebrate! On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, November 24, we will dedicate the new elements in our worship space and offer the entire finished product to the glory of God. Our guest preacher that day will be Rev. Alpher Sylvester, Superintendent of the Connecticut District. Chris Shay is planning a variety of special music to punctuate the service. Please plan to be present on this historic occasion.
So, to recap unique events and anticipate regular events, here is a calendar for the remaining special Sundays of a full fall season:
Sunday, November 3 – ALL SAINTS SUNDAY (Sacrament of Holy Communion); if you wish to have deceased loved ones specifically remembered during this service, please provide names to the church office by Wednesday, October 30.
Sunday, November 10 – CHURCH CONFERENCE (held jointly with other area churches), at New Fairfield UMC, New Fairfield, CT, 3:00 PM
Sunday, November 17 – NEW CONSECRATION SUNDAY (Rev. Paul Hibbard, preaching)
Sunday, November 24 – A SERVICE OF THANKSGIVING AND DEDICATION OF OUR SANCTUARY, 10:30 AM (Rev. Alpher Sylvester, preaching)
Sunday, December 1 – FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, 10:30 AM
Grace and peace,