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  • Writer's picturePastor Elaine

Pentecost 1: "The Church's Birthday!"

“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”


Today is the Church’s birthday!  Today we remember and celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  We remember and celebrate the fulfillment of a promise.  Jesus told his followers that he would send a helper.  Today is the day that the helper arrived.


We heard this morning about how the followers were again gathered together when suddenly the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all who were gathered.  


Birthdays usually come with gifts, and today is no different.  The Holy Spirit brought the gift of language.  Many languages were spoken and understood.  The Holy Spirit provided the gift that would allow the Gospel to be proclaimed and understood all over the known world.


With this gift the disciples and apostles and followers could expand the mission and grow the Church.


For some time I have had something on my mind. This morning it may be time to make you feel a little uncomfortable. Not helpless or hopeless, but maybe just squirm a little in your comfortable pew.  This morning I would like us to examine a problem and hopefully find a solution  - together.


This morning may be the closest I come to a “Stewardship Sermon.”  Stewardship sermons tend to make me uncomfortable. 


Thirty years ago I was living in St. John’s Newfoundland and worshiping at The Old Garrison Church.  As you can tell from its name it was a very old congregation.  It was well established in the city, it had three full-time clergy.  And on a regular basis - so regular you could set your watch or calendar by it we would have a targeted stewardship sermon.  


These were the Sundays I really did not want to be in Church.  I was not financially in a position to give very much.  Ross had a student internship at Memorial University which paid our food and rent with very little left.  I had been unable to find work, but was actively volunteering in the community.  So on those Sundays I was never uplifted - I left feeling bad about myself and pretty lousy overall.


Finally I spoke to one of the priests about how guilty I was feeling after hearing these sermons.  I was surprised by the response.  Apparently the congregation was made up of many of the wealthiest people in the city or even the Province.  And apparently many of these people were reluctant to give very much of their time or their talents or  - and this was explicitly said - their treasure.


This still makes me feel uncomfortable.  If we say - and if we say it we should mean it - that we welcome ALL regardless of anything that could be a barrier between us then we should be this way.


I hold back from Stewardship sermons that focus on the treasures part of our gifts because they feel exclusionary and divisive.  


This morning on the Church’ birthday I am going to ask you to consider what gifts of time and talent you can give to Advent or the larger Church.


Currently there is a specific need that is not being fully met or not met in the way that it could or should be.  I asked council at our meeting on Monday evening to make this a priority and now I am bringing it to you.


As I said this has been on my mind for some time.


As you are all very well aware we rent space to other groups who worship here.  We also rent space to community groups or others who may want to hold a meeting or a wedding in our space. 


As you are also very well aware we need the rental income to assist us in our mission and in remaining a viable congregation.


This is not a new situation.  Advent has relied on rental income to help pay the bills for many many years.


But we now find ourselves in a bit of a catch 22 position.  We need the rental income. We need someone who can oversee the needs of the property.  But we don’t have a dedicated/designated person who can and is doing this work.  If we do not have a person who can fulfill this role we may lose out on rental income or find ourselves with major property issues that once again we can ill afford.


I want to specifically acknowledge three people who have been shouldering this work for many years now.   Brit, Gabi and Cynthia have been keeping up with property issues on an ad hoc basis as well as bearing the brunt of looking after our renters. But these are big jobs and they are tired and they deserve a break and a rest.  


So what are we going to do?


Where do your time and talents lie?


The survey that we did recently showed that worshiping in this space - this sanctuary is very important to the people of Advent.  Which means that the behind the scenes things like physical plant issues and building and maintaining rental relationships are also very important.


We need dedicated/designated people to look after our property and manage all aspects of dealing with our current and future renters.  If you take a close look around you will see that there are a number of deferred maintenance issues - on your way out check out the crumbling bricks.  The flatroof is a looming nightmare.  And who takes care of things when they break or as we have experienced three times in six months we have an incident of vandalism?


Who is going to do this work and what does it entail?  


As many denominations and congregations have discovered, volunteers may be harder to come by than in years past.  We know that many denominations and congregations are shrinking and we are all getting older.  


Many Churches are now in a position where they pay for work that was previously done by members.  


Perhaps this is where we will end up.


On Pentecost we celebrate and remember that Jesus promised his disciples that they would be accompanied by the Holy Spirit, and that this Spirit reveals the truth.  Today we celebrate and remember that we too have been visited with this same Spirit.


Let us pray that we will continue to be guided by the help of the Holy Spirit.  


Guided by truth, we join together in worship, then disperse to share the fullness of Christ’s love with the world.  This is our mission.


AMEN




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