CGS has never intentionally had a strong culture of "insiders" and "outsiders." We don't publish membership rolls or have a lot of formal restrictions on what is exclusively for members. In fact, the only time you might be excluded based on membership is when it's time to take a vote as a congregation. If we do exclude others it’s subtle, like when we don’t introduce ourselves because we’ve been part of the community for forever and we forget that everyone doesn’t know our name.
Part of our mission is to Welcome All and we’ve always known that there literally isn’t anyone who is excluded from the Body of Christ. As we say on Sunday morning: “Just as Christ welcomes all, all are welcome to Christ’s table in this place.”
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t ask ourselves who is a part of the body in this particular community that gathers at 1550 Meridian. We might be centered around the table, but we don’t spend all our time there. In fact, we are fully engaged in God’s work out in the world.
Being a part of CGS means that sometimes we “go together” in the way of the disciples. Our community becomes not one voice in the wilderness, but a whole choir of voices who are proclaiming God’s love and serving in public, corporate ways.
When we decide to follow God’s call as a community our actions in these areas of civic life get bigger. We do things like build affordable housing on our property or take on a multi-million-dollar renovation to make our kitchen ready for a soup kitchen and our parsonage ready for an immigrant family. We do things like call and hire people who are differently abled, and organize our friends and neighbors to change legislation.
So before we make a move as one body with many parts, we wonder – who is a part of this body? And who gets to determine our collective direction?
In some ways our governing documents are really helpful with this. They decentralize power and give decision-making power to the consensus of the community. They push us toward careful discernment and stewardship of what God has given us.
And perhaps most importantly, they root us in relationship with God and with one another as the basis of our mission. This comes to brass tacks when we say a member is someone who does two things in the span of a year: 1.Share communion at Christ’s table with us 2.Make a financial contribution of record The announcement that Bob and Kevin made this past Sunday was about the interpretation of number 2.
One thing that a financial contribution of record tells us is whether or not a person is invested in the ongoing life and ministry of this community. Making a financial contribution is a way of investing in our shared work. It’s a way to keep the lights on, compensate the staff, or feed the hungry.
In our conversations in council one question that was raised came in the form of a hypothetical: What if we as a congregation decide that we should host a tent city on our property. Historically this has not been a popular choice with neighbors who own property near the church building. We would have to hold a congregational vote on this and if the neighbors wanted to influence our decision they could show up to the meeting, vote, and change the direction of our ministry without ever being involved.
One thing that the council and finance team have discerned is that it is important for people at CGS to work together and share the abundant gifts God has given us. But sometimes “finances” are not abundant. Anyone who has ever been laid off, or paid minimum wage in this valley knows that sometimes the gifts we have to offer are not cash, but time, or talent.
CGS does not want to become a house of worship where we only recognize one kind of gift. We recognize that some of us are gifted by God to be devastatingly beautiful, or spectacularly intelligent, or magnificently patient. In our worship we know that some of us are good at singing, some at reading, some at proclaiming, some at serving. So then we also want to recognize that wealth comes in multiple forms. Some of us have money to give. Some of us have material things or services to offer. Some of us have the time and energy that others cannot muster or spare.
The point is, there is no one way to invest in the ongoing ministry of this congregation and recently our council made a huge step in recognizing that. It won’t be something that shows up on your giving statement. It won’t result in a huge shift of our quorum at this month’s congregational meeting. In fact, you could have gone your whole life without knowing this.
I wanted you to know. I wanted you to know because I think that this is a place where the Kingdom of God is breaking through into our world. In a culture where we have to earn most of what we have and conform to most spaces, CGS is a little further from that reality and a little closer to the table of God where we come in our need and experience the abundance of God. We’re a little closer to living in that place of faith where we trust God’s promises more than our own reason or understanding. Thanks be to God.
A note: The workings of our leadership and committees is something that I want to be as transparent as possible. It might be boring to consider, but really this is the product of making our private relationships into public action. So I want to thank our finance team who noticed the need to address this in our community and took on the work of figuring it out: Janet Keeley, Jean Hope, Randy Presuhn, Gregg Zigler, and Kevin Visscher
And I also want to encourage you to continue the conversation with our council who debated, prayed, and took a faithful leap into an area where there isn’t a lot of precedent: Laurie Gaumer, Bob Charves, Theo Olson, Barbara Malaspina, Rebecca Thomas, Chuck Witschorik, Joe Shackelford, Kerry Schweik Fremlin