Good morning. I’m Steve Huels and it is my pleasure to serve on the Vision 2020 team. We call these presentations “invitations”. In previous weeks, other members of the Vision 2020 team have invited you to participate in a variety of activities designed to engage you in the Vision 2020 process. These include journaling in the devotional guide, reading and posting to the blog, and participating in small group discussions. The emphasis on all of this has been participation and engagement. We are inviting you to hang on to the thread that is God in your life and to weave that thread through the fabric that is our church.
We are two-thirds of the way through our Vision 2020 Phase 2 period. Let me do a short recap of how we got to this point. The Vision team, through the strategic planning process we began last year, sought to answer two questions: What’s going on? And what do we do about it? We have shared with you that WCC faces big head winds that are part of larger societal trends. We learned, with the help of Rev. Tony Robinson, that thriving congregations are navigating these difficult sea changes by “getting on purpose, going deeper, and reaching wider.”
That’s what we have undertaken with our Vision 2020 process. We are defining and refining our purpose to be a congregation, to be this church. Each of us is being called to get deeper in our understanding of God and our knowledge of Jesus’ teaching on how we are to live our lives every day. We are challenged to reach wider by continuing to be open to all, exposing our purpose to all, and being flexible enough to incorporate those looking for us into to our work as a church. Phase 2 is about your participation in this process.
Starting last week and continuing for the next three, we are studying, discussing and reflecting on Stewardship. I am inviting you to think deeply about two dimensions of stewardship – engagement and giving – two topics about which I’ve spoken with you before. Let me start with engagement by using this quote from the devotional; “In the end, engagement is about finding ways for your soul to be fed, to grow your faith, to build relationships, and to offer yourself in the service to God and others.
I start with that quote to set up sharing my personal story. In my time in leadership roles as well as my work in our missions, I have begun to learn about translating our Christian values into a deeper faith and a more faithful life. It’s been hard work; frankly, I was a hard case. My path from Catholic altar boy to a chair of this congregation was a circuitous one. I have spent of my life calling myself a Christian but prioritizing many other things higher. I was a Christian when I had time for it. I have spent much time in the mountains and on the water experiencing the beauty of God’s creation, giving thanks and believing that that was enough. Of course, it isn’t.
I wish I could say that I got engaged because of the behavior modeled by my lovely wife Jane. She joined the congregation within months of our move to Winnetka 16 years ago and has been active ever since, from Sunday school teacher to Women’s Society. I would love to say that it was the experiences of watching my children grow up in this nurturing faith community, from little sheep in a Christmas pageant to servants in Juarez, the Dominican Republic and New Orleans.
While those experiences were important, part of the fabric our family life at WCC, for me, it was the act of getting involved. It was getting involved personally and making it personal, it was accepting the call and taking the first step.
Through that beginning, came caring – caring about the people here. From caring came commitment – commitment to what we are trying to achieve together. From commitment came engagement – engagement in my faith community and my faith journey. And that has truly fed my soul. It has given me the strength to begin to hear and understand the hard stuff we are called to do as Christians.
Let me close with another invitation, an invitation to give. It is another important dimension of stewardship. This week, we are inviting you to think about and discuss the ways we spend our very precious time, talent and resources.
In keeping with our experimenting with new ideas and practices this fall, we will not be running a Canvass Campaign, so to speak. As most of you will surely have noticed, it’s the end of October and we haven’t talked about money once this fall. And we don’t intend to. No appeals in the messenger, no placards with thermometers, no five-page insert covering church finances. Yes, I’ve been guilty of barraging you with all such manner of reminders to give to our church. This year, we have more important things to talk about – getting on purpose, going deeper, reaching wider.
You are invited to give. Actually, let me rephrase that. Give is not an active enough word for me this morning. I prefer the term contribute. Contribute to me is an engagement word. I invite you to contribute, contribute to the pool of resources that we will use to grow and reshape our church.
When you receive our letter, please discuss with your family and friends. Please pray about it.
I pray that you will answer the call to be faithful stewards. Together, we will create a pool of resources to help us get on purpose, go deeper and reach wider.