Thoughts from Pastor Mark
“My advice was to start a policy of making reversible decisions before anyone left the meeting or the office … It doesn’t matter if you’re 100 percent right 100 percent of the time. What matters is having forward momentum.”
~ Steven Gary Blank, “The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Startups That Win”
Around Christmas time, a colleague posted a picture on Facebook of a Crèche scene and captioned it “Preparing for the Second Annual Crèche Pageant.” I implored him to drop the “Second Annual” and to change the name to “Crèche Pageant.” I have served too many churches which have traditions that seem to be holier than the God we are supposed to worship and serve. I told him that he’s setting up whomever comes after him. He or she will have to do things like he did or there will likely be disappointment. And it’s quite likely that he has special gifts that made the first pageant a success, which his successors may or may not have.
It often surprises me that so many high functioning people populate our churches, but seem to lose common sense and business sense when it comes to the church. (I’m not referring to anyone in particular here or even Second Church.) If businesses made decisions because “we’ve always done it that way,” they’d be out of business pretty quickly. “We’ve always done it that way” is not a good reason to do something. In fact, it’s a terrible reason to do something in a climate of rapid change and social upheaval such as the church presently finds itself. If businesses ran meetings the way some church meetings are run, there would be a constant turnover in management. Meetings are supposed to be productive and have takeaways along with deliverable outcomes. Otherwise they are a waste of precious time. In church the deliverable outcome can be advances in meeting particular initiatives or growth in faith as a result of the sharing or spiritual exercises that may have been part of the meeting.
We are preparing for the Annual Meeting of the Congregation. In our tradition every member of the church gets to vote on the business of the Annual Meeting. To me, this is like being a citizen in that there are both rights and responsibilities. You have the right to have your voice heard and you have the right to vote your conscience. I believe these are also responsibilities.
We are trying something new. The meeting will be set up in a worshipful way. In fact, it may seem like a worship service. It’s my belief that all the work we do in the church should be a sacred offering to God. Otherwise church meetings and the work we do is not much different than a Rotary Club meeting.
We also have a very full agenda that includes an update from the Transition Team, a motion to broaden the welcome of our Open and Affirming statement that includes gender identity, a discussion on the church’s investment policy to put it closer in line with our Christian values, a change in the bylaws for the composition of the deacons and the length of their term, plus the consideration of the 2017 Church budget and nominating slate.
I hope that you will attend. I also hope that we will consider the business that we do as progress which began with the Crossroads meetings. We are necessarily changing some strategies, processes, policies, and ways of doing business based on those discussions. We anticipate that there will be both successes and failures. My belief is that unless we are willing to take risks, which will inevitably include some failure, we will never rise to the level of our God-given and God-inspired calling.
The business of the church should mirror our spiritual lives in that it is dynamic. Our lives are constantly changing, so we talk about the life of faith as a spiritual journey. We might consider our Annual Meeting an adventure in the midst of our journey – an adventure of spirit, community engagement, discerning God’s will, and joy. If it’s not going to be like that, what’s the sense in doing it at all? We’re church after all. So let’s do church when we’re at church.
Pastor Mark will be on vacation from February 13 to 27. Rev. Susan Brecht will be on call for pastoral emergencies and may be reached at the following number: (818) 389-5958. We have two Harvard Divinity School students preaching the next two weeks. Stay tuned for more information about them. And please mark your calendar for February 26 as Holy Humor Sunday – the last week before Lent begins.