At University Church's Sunday service
Good morning, church. I’m Dominic. And today for our Affirmation of Faith, I’ll reflect on stewardship -- by which I mean certainly time and talent. But first I want to talk about treasure. Money.
Now I’m weird in that I love to talk about money. Our tireless, talented, outgoing church treasurer, said I was the first person to join in 20 years and WANT, ASK to get involved in church finances. What’s wrong with me? Well, as with most things, I blame it on my mother. For one thing, she chairs the parish finance council back home.
Speaking of home: I’m from Holland, Michigan. You might have heard of us thanks to my dear neighbor Betsy. If you follow my Michigan home's creek half a mile, you get to a house of hers, which you may have seen on social media -- a window-laden mansion monstrosity almost as grotesque as the capitalism that enabled it. Oh, and Betsy is a DeVos, and Trump’s education secretary.
So I get why we don’t like to look at money. But as with racism, sexism, and all the rest, it strikes me that capitalism’s ugliness is also its strategy, and that to beat capitalism, we will have to stare it down. Not just in its McMansion absurdity, but in our lives, and in our church.
What does it mean to look at our money? Well, it means to steward it. It certainly means that we each must give, and that we must enact that together, as we do in our service.
But I see a more literal sense in which we must steward our money: We must, well, LOOK at our money. As a church, we must not only give but spend together.
This stewardship is work -- it takes TIME. It takes time to read financial statements, and join meetings, and ask questions, and make proposals, and so on. This is especially true since UChurch supports, and is supported by, four nonprofits with millions in assets and hundreds of thousands in annual revenue -- the biggest being the Covenantal Community.
This stewardship also takes TALENT -- much trickier, since this often means expertise. For instance, when I got more involved in UChurch’s Woodlawn Development Associates, I sat down with my mother, who used to be a Certified Public Accountant, to try to make heads or tails of the nonprofit’s 12-page financial report. Access to such expertise reflects my privilege. More generally, those with the expertise also tend to be those with the money.
Yet above all, this stewardship takes investment. It takes investment to raise difficult subjects, like how much we pay our fellow members on staff, and where our money is coming from besides members, and so on. This investment is precisely how we OWN UChurch -- how we are congregational. It’s what makes giving more than a transaction, a trade of money for a nice package of social, spiritual, and other benefits.
And if we as a church approach stewardship congregationally, we’ll let people invest many types of talent, namely, all the social and political talents that keep our congregation together: diplomacy, strategy, longevity, and so on. We will, in short, rely on… committee!
Do we really need another committee, you ask? Does Dominic love committees as much as he loves money? In return, I ask: Could we do… social justice AS UCHURCH without a committee? Could we do much of anything as a board or congregation without committees?
And glory be, next year there is energy behind UChurch getting back to having a finance committee that meets throughout the year. This is thanks to UChurch board members who noticed effects of a dormant finance council and spoke up. And if this committee actually happens, it will be thanks to members -- you? -- who join this committee. No expertise is required.
So give your treasure. If you have a lot, please do give a lot -- pastor doesn’t come cheap, to say nothing of this building. If you have a little (like me!), give a little. And ESPECIALLY if you only have a little, then give your time and talent to how we together use our treasure. Each of us has a lot of talent, and together we can turn it into a church worthy of our treasure -- our money and our God. Amen.
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