As I mentioned last week, the Strategic Planning Working Group (SPWG) has done a lot of reading over the past year. I would be very grateful if you would allow me to share some of the ideas found in Holy Currencies by Rev. Eric H.F. Law, an Episcopal priest who founded an American institute to provide training and resources to churches throughout North America. In 2009, he noticed that half of the 37 congregations that he surveyed had concerns about money. Interestingly, Rev. Law discovered that those who spoke about being missional tended not to talk about sustainability, and those who spoke about sustainability, were often preoccupied by money as the only currency, and tended not to talk about being missional. Sound familiar?
Over half of the church leaders of these congregations also wanted resources to move their churches towards becoming both sustainable and missional. Rev. Law found that there weren’t many resources to help churches become more missional (until his book). So, what is a missional church and why is this important to Aylmer United? “It is a community of people who look outward and are able to connect with others who are not already members of any church organization”. Some of the questions the SPWG asked ourselves included whether we were focussed externally or were we so caught up on finances that we’ve lost the big picture of being a church? What is God’s plan for us and what makes Aylmer United different from the Knights of Columbus or the Optimists?
Rev. Law’s research summarized that in sustainable ministries, in addition to money, at least five other currencies flow through them: time and place, gracious leadership, relationship, truth, and wellness. Essentially, these currencies flow through the ministry and are exchanged for each other (like a barter system), which he called the Cycle of Blessings. I will elaborate on these currencies in future blogs. However, the sequence of the exchanges does not always follow the same pattern and not only replenishes the currency that was spent initially, but recirculates resources and regenerates more currencies, allowing the ministry to grow and expand. This model is based on the premises that God owns everything (we live in God’s creation after all), that God gives abundantly (all of the resources are here already), that we are to circulate God’s resources rather than keep them, and that God’s blessings are then recycled to create more blessings. Rev. Law notes that there is a Chinese saying “Water is money” and talks about how money and resources need to move and flow to do good and that if they stagnate, they become breeding pools for trouble and unsustainability.
The choice is ours, we can choose whether we use our currencies to flow in life-giving, truth-telling, relationship-building and community-building ways, or not. However, to be sustainable, Law summarized that it is the flow that gives these currencies value, that all of the currencies need to be used (not just some of them) and that the flow of these currencies must recirculate back to replenish depleted currencies, in fact making the ministry grow and be sustainable. Law also talked about doing more with less and how there were always people over at his house for Sunday dinner. He did not know that they were not well off and assumed that this meant that his family was “rich”. The reality was that his mother stretched the food into a feast for $3 by bargaining and careful purchasing AND there were leftovers! The interesting thing about that was that each member would refuse to take the leftovers and offer them to another person at the table who was more “deserving”. Each person would name someone else to eat the leftovers with a corresponding reason. Ultimately, they were used in the meal the following day. Talk about a “less is more exercise” and validating each individual person’s worth as deserving!
This is the kind of thinking about abundance and generosity that keeps these currencies flowing and continues this giving and receiving cycle. On Sunday and in the coming weeks, I would like to continue this discussion and try to impart some more of Rev. Law’s findings and how they related to the work that the SPWG is doing.
Pentecost Alert!! Wear your fire colours on Sunday to church. Let's see how much Holy
Spirit-fire we can see on Sunday as we gather for worship!
Come, O Hoy Spirit...set the church on fire;
strike it as the lightning hits a posing spire.
Burn away the structures and consume the sham
of our holy systems:
Come in Jesus' name!
So goes the first verse of hymn 23 in More Voices. The author, The Rev Fred Kaan, who died almost 10 years ago at aged 80, was the foremost of a new generation of post-second world war hymn writers who expressed the dreams of an emerging new humanity. His theology reflected a God committed to a world crying out to be set free from every form of injustice. Fred's poetry centred on a Jesus who embraced the whole of creation and excluded no one and nothing from his love. We have many of his hymns in our United Church hymn books and sing them regularly at AUC.
Kaan was born in Haarlem in the Netherlands. His teenage experience of Nazi occupation never left him. His parents were deeply involved in the resistance movement. His family hid weapons under their floor; and they successfully hid a young Jewish woman and a political prisoner who had escaped from Belsen.
His passion for the Spirit of God - the Spirit of love, compassion and justice - gave him his life's work and his reason to live. He was what I would call a Pentecost person.
Pentecost is my favourite Christian festival! It is so full of life, and possibility. Let those Pentecost winds blow and those fires burn. They are not sent to destroy us but to renew us as God would have us be.
Come, O Holy Spirit ...
Blow away the cobwebs of our stubborn past.
Come, send flying from us myths unfit to last.
Wind of change refresh us and disturb our calm;
teach us what true love is, take our hearts by storm! (Verse 2 MV 23)
“A Mother is one
who can take the place of all others
but whose place no one else can take.”
~ Wise Old Irish Words
Did you know that celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals to honour the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. In the Christian church the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the festival known as “Mothering Sunday, which is still celebrated in the UK.
A precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe (an American who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic) in 1870. Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 she campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.
The official Mother’s Day holiday that we celebrate in North America began in the 1900s in the US when Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, wanted to create a special day for mothers as a way of honouring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.
More recently Mother’s Day has also been a date for launching political or feminist causes. In 1968 Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., used Mother’s Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s women’s groups also used the holiday as a time to highlight the need for equal rights and access to childcare.
No matter what you do for your mother, grandmother, step-mother, mother-in-law or the mother figures in your life, do it with gusto and exuberant love. It will mean the world to her. You may want to give her this blessing:
“May you always know… The fragrance of flowers, The feel of the sun on your shoulders and always – the warmth of your child’s love.” An Irish Mother’s Blessing
In the gift of this new day,
In the gift of the present moment,
in the gift of time and eternity intertwined
let me be thankful
let me be attentive
let me be open to what has never happened before,
in the gift of this new day,
in the gift of the present moment,
in the gift of time and eternity intertwined. Amen
(J.Philip Newell "Sounds of the Eternal")
"What has never happened before" is happening right outside my window. Yours too. Yes, in previous springs in my backyard, the daffodils have bloomed and the rhubarb has sprouted. But not exactly like this year. In this spring of new life, everything is new. And I don't want to miss any of it.
It's not that the differences are "good" or "bad". That's not what it's about. The differences just are. And we are called to engage as we are now, in this moment. We are called to be present, thankful, and attentive.
Go outside to your garden, or on your balcony and notice what is new. Around you and within you on this spring day. Then offer the prayer above.
God bless you!