Temple Talks


Sunday, October 18, 2015 - Stewardship - Craig Weinrich

 

I recently read about a story of a Southern preacher's particular sermon. He preached, "We have to crawl before we can walk."

The congregation responded in unison, "Let us crawl, Preacher. Let us crawl."

Then the preacher said, "We have to walk before we can jog."

"We have to walk, Preacher, then. Let us walk," came the reply.

The preacher continued, "We have to jog before we can run."

"Let us jog, Preacher. Let us jog," they answered.

"But before we can run," he told them, "we have to learn how to give."
There was a moment of awed silence...followed by, "Let us crawl, Preacher. Let us crawl."
 
I cannot claim credit for that joke, but it does reflect our level of comfort on talking about money...especially in church.
 
Over the next few weeks you'll hear some more temple talks from our congregation members about their own ways of being good stewards of their time, talent and treasures. This continues our year-round stewardship emphasis, to - in some small ways - talk about topics that are uncomfortable or challenging to us. Topics such as:
  • living as transgender person;
  • end-of-life planning;
  • financial stewardship of the church and our upcoming mortgage decision;
  • bible study questions that we all ask of God, but don't alway hear the answer to;
  • and how to keep our bucket full and overflowing? <Point to bucket on sacristy wall> 
 
Earlier this year, as part of my Lead NJ class, my fellow classmates and I took the "privilege walk" which is an activity designed to help people understand the positive and negative effects of societal privileges. A list of 35 social privileges or disadvantages were read out loud, and people took a step forward or a step back based on how they identified with the statement. Not surprisingly, I ended up closer to the front than closer to the back. It was a striking example of how some don't have the same privileges that I have enjoyed. I know that, at times, I have taken my nationality, race, class, and gender for granted. But, through constant exposure to the needs of others - through my jobs, the media, through friends, through sermons - I do indeed realize that to whom much is given, much more will be required (paraphrasing Luke 12:48).
 
Some of you may remember, I gave another Temple Talk a year ago about fearless generosity, and how I was able to donate to some of my favorite causes even though I did not have a job at that time.  Even though I was down, I have a sister who was able to house me when I had to move out with no job. But I never really felt the despair that the homeless face. I did not have to sleep in a box. I've never had a debilitating illness. Although at times my bank account gets low, I've still have had the promise of receiving income.  
 
I am privileged.
 
But being privileged can be a good thing. It is my privilege to help; to support those that need a helping hand. It's heartbreaking to hear of the trials of the Ragaswore family, of children struck down with terminal illnesses, of those affected by natural and man-made disasters. But I am blessed to be in a position to do something about it, no matter how small my effort is.  I have the ability to give money, my time, and my talent to not only Living Waters to support our ministries, but to other nonprofit organizations near and dear to my heart.
 
I am privileged.
 
One of the great things I love about the Living Waters community is all the ways that we can help. Now, I need your help to complete this talk.  It's  audience participation time! You've heard Pastor Lee in her children's sermon amend the Dismissal to include "And we-ee will!" to the Go in Peace; Serve the Lord. Thanks Be to God. So, I am amending that even more in a quick recap of some of the ways we at Living Waters have been privileged to help. Tristan and Maggie, I need you to hold up these signs when I point to you. That will cue the congregation to respond "and we-ee did!"
  • You can volunteer your time to tutor the Ragaswore's children <point> (and we did!);
  • You can use your muscles to move a family's belongings to a safe place <point> (and we did!); 
  • You can create an outdoor worship space for anyone to get closer to God through nature <point> (and we did!);
  • You can assemble backpacks for youth <point> (and we did!); 
  • You can walk, jog, or run a few laps with the Angry Dads to raise money and awareness for one child's fight against ALD <point> (and we did!);
  • You can volunteer your time to feed the hungry at both Trenton and Fleming Food Pantry <point> (and we did!);
  • You can give a little extra money to send nets to Africa to prevent the spread of malaria <point> (and we did!).
 
We are fortunate to be able to help, and we are happy to share that Good News with others <point> (and we did!).
 
Yes, I admit; I am privileged.
 
I am privileged to give.

 

 

Sunday, September 20, 2015 - Tom Kull.  Topic 2016 Balloon Mortgage

Good Morning.

You should have received a handout that I will refer to during this temple talk.   If you do not have one, please raise your hand and you will receive one.

Living Waters was approved for a 7 year loan by the Mission Investment Fund in March 2009 with refinancing scheduled for early 2016.   The interest rate for our congregation’s first loan is 3% with a special amortization schedule that provides for more principal being paid than with a traditional mortgage.   In August 2010, the interest only construction loan converted to a $1,062,000 mortgage with a $7,341 monthly payment.   Our current mortgage balance is about $750,000.

At the December 6 annual meeting, the Living Waters congregation will be asked to approve a traditional mortgage agreement for the anticipated March 2016 balance of $724,000.    

This temple talk is the beginning of the information sharing process related to our mortgage options. Throughout the process please give the congregation leadership feedback as we approach this important decision.  

The top chart on the first page of the handout shows our deficits from 2011 to 2014 and the projected 2015 deficit. The sale of our parsonage in 2012 provided funds to cover those deficits. The bottom chart shows how the parsonage fund has been reduced to cover the deficits and how the mortgage balance has been reduced over the same period.   The goal of the parsonage fund as approved by the congregation is to provide up to $200,000 to help the congregation grow into the $88,000 annual mortgage and keep at least $100,000 for a reserve fund.  

The top half of the second page shows Living Waters’ growth in income and expenses over the 6 years since the congregation voted to start construction.   Because of some one-time giving in 2014, our deficit may be more in 2015 than 2014. I have previously predicted a 2017 breakeven but I will not be disappointed if breakeven happens in 2016.

You may be asking the following about our refinancing:

1)    Who is the Mission Investment Fund? This is an ELCA resource that makes loans to congregations for new construction, expansions and renovations.  

2)    Will the Mission Investment Fund refinance our mortgage? Yes and without any refinancing fees.  

3)    What are our mortgage options?   We have many options ranging from a 15 year variable rate mortgage that would reduce our monthly payment to a 7 year fixed rate mortgage that would increase our monthly payment. The three 10 year mortgage options on the bottom of the second page are examples being considered based on discussions with MIF and supported by the Congregation Council and Long Range Planning team that keep ours annual mortgage payment in the $88,000 range. The rates shown should be close to what MIF will offer in January and for the adjustable rate options, the 6% assumption should be conservative. The congregational council will bring a refinancing recommendation to the annual meeting for a congregational vote.

4)    Why 10 years? For a growing congregation that builds their first building, a building expansion is often needed in 15 to 20 years. A 10 year mortgage extension would eliminate our debt in 17 years from the start of construction.   Continuing an annual $88,000 mortgage payment appears to give Living Waters the most flexibility for future ministry decisions.

5)    Can the mortgage be paid off early? Yes without penalty.

6)    Could we refinance if a building expansion is needed before paying off the current mortgage? Yes.   Our most immediate need is expanded parking and there may be ways to finance that from the Parsonage Fund. We could also consider a capital campaign related to any expansion.

In addition to the Adult forum next Sunday, our congregation will have more than 2 months to discuss our plans for refinancing our mortgage prior to voting at the December 6th annual meeting.

If you cannot attend the Adult forum next Sunday, you can contact me or other member of the finance committee for continued discussions. A brief commercial, membership on the finance committee is open to anyone. Our next meeting is Monday, 9/28 at 7 PM.

Thank you for allowing me to share this information with you and I look forward to next Sunday’s adult forum and more discussion.

 

Sunday, May 3, 2015 - Cindy Cooper

From the beginning, Living Waters has always been a place where service was an important part of its ministry. Having been a Lutheran all my life, I don’t remember my former churches being so service oriented. Maybe I just don’t remember, maybe it is because I am older and what is important to me has shifted. I’m not sure, but I do know that over the years, faith changes. It sounds so cliché, but faith is a journey.

My faith, having to explain it, became real to me when I had children. The same questions all parents face: Why does God let bad things happen? How do you know there is a God..you can’t see God? My answer to all these questions is to ask Pastor Lee. J But the one that sticks with me is that we can’t see God, we really don’t know he is there. It is because of that, that service is so important to me. I want my kids to be part of a community that cares about other people. My hope is that as they grow and mature in their lives and in their faith, they will connect God’s love, grace and mercy with taking care of others. I want them to understand that it is through us that God does God’s work. Moving a family with family promise, or serving a meal at Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, spending a summer week in Detroit..are a few examples of Gods work.

Appreciating all the gifts we have…everything…and taking that appreciation and passing it to others, is what I believe God calls us to do. For me its service..for others it might be singing in the choir, or reading on Sundays, or acolyting, or cleaning the church. God gives us all talents, gifts and interests. It’s when we share them, then it brings it full circle.

 

Sunday, October 12, 2014 - Kathy Wolfman

So, what's your time worth? $10 an hour? $25 an hour? Maybe even $50 or $100 an hour? Or, perhaps your time is, as the MasterCard commercial says, "priceless." Well, in my mind, whatever time you can give to volunteering at Living Waters is priceless.

Good stewardship is about more than just money. It's about giving our time, talent and treasure. In my case, I tend to give in that order. I may not always be able to give my "treasure" as abundantly as I'd like. So, it's important to me that I donate my time and talent as often as I'm able.

Part of the time I give to Living Waters is as a member of the church council. I first got wrangled into this position not long after I joined Living Waters about 15 years ago. Terry Welsh's wife, Amy, pulled me aside and asked if I would fill her position on the council after she fulfilled her three-year term that January. She said it would be easy. She was mostly right.

I've been on and off the church council ever since, fulfilling my two consecutive three-year terms, then happy it was over, and then soon I'd realize I missed being part of it, so I'd reup yet again. It's a vicious cycle.

Sure, being a council member means committing one evening a month to attend an always lively – although occasionally draining – meeting. And it means taking responsibility for a particular service area of the congregation; in my case, I share "Communications" with Terry. But it also means sharing my ideas, my talents, and my time to help keep Living Waters thriving.

In addition to my role on council, I also head up our "Inside The Artist's Studio" program. This program, which we now hold quarterly, was started by a former Living Waters member named Jan Peters. For those of you who didn't get a chance to know Jan or her husband, Les, before they moved to California a few years ago, all you need to know is that they REALLY donated a lot of their time to Living Waters. Jan played the piano and helped lead the music program among many other things; and Les was so active, when my son was very young, he referred to Les as "the other pastor."

When Jan left Living Waters, it took many of us to fill her shoes. I filled the shoe that was the "Artist's Studio." In this role, I find musicians or artists who would like to share their talents and discuss the inspirations behind what they do. We were fortunate to have our own Ted Green show off his pottery skills at the "Artist's Studio" program last month (I'm sorry I had to miss it!). And, save the date for our next "Artist's Studio" on Sunday, November 16, at 6 p.m., when we'll be hosting an amazing photographer named Arik Gorban (who happens to be a friend of Bob Chilcoat).

I also design the poster for the "Artist's Studio" and write the press release for it. Since my day job is as a writer and editor, I also write the press releases for most of the events held here at Living Waters.

Of course, many people in our congregation give much more of their time than I do. I do feel guilty when I don't sign up for the cleaning crew or participate in many of the other activities needed to keep the church and our building going. I'll just have to pray about that a little more. And, I ask all of you to pray about giving your time to Living Waters.

 

Sunday, October 5, 2014 - Craig Weinrich

I love the fall. The crisp nights, the changing leaves, Apple cider, football, and the World Series. As some of you know, I work in the nonprofit sector, and November and December also means the giving season. When most fundraising appeals are mailed to capitalize on the generosity the fall season usually engenders.

On Wednesday, I met with some emerging philanthropic leaders and we discussed our own personal philanthropy. It was encouraging to hear that all these leaders had been taught through the church to give back. We each saw our parents offer their gifts each week, including those of us whose mom would slowly and not so delicately tear the checks out of her checkbook during the sermon! 

Not so long ago, there were not professionals in philanthropy - people that gave away money (and not their own!) for their job. Philanthropy has become more pronounced in the public’s conscience...and it's not just those very wealthy individuals that have pledged to give away their vast fortunes that are making headlines! How many of you took part in the Ice Bucket Challenge? 

[Ask someone who did] Which was worse? Giving the $100 or getting the bucket of ice cold water dumped on your head? Was there any risk in it?

Is there normally risk in giving? We usually think of giving from our excess wealth or materials. Is it possible to change this thinking? After all, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth from a formless void. He gave us us, and the heavens and the earth. We try to follow God’s example, be it through our first fruits or the saving the last for the poor. Whichever way, we give thanks, because God gave us life, and even more importantly, he gave his only son who died for all our sins. How awesome is that? 

And how risky was that? What if we rejected Jesus? Would he have given his life for us? How would God have felt? An interesting theological question to ponder.

Risk is not something that we think of everyday. Pastor Thurston said in her sermon last week, that we often do what is comfortable, and we ask God to guide us and lead us. But sometimes life is not easy. 

Last year was not an easy one for me. I was laid off twice, and during my second stint on unemployment, the house I was renting was sold, and I needed to move out. So I was unemployed and homeless. Fortunately, my sister and her family housed me in my time of need. Never did I think that I would be in the position of the widow who gave two copper coins that Luke and Mark documented in the Gospels.

But during Giving Tuesday (an ironic movement to re-focus American's attention on giving rather than commercialism after the Thanksgiving holiday), I took a risk and donated the most money I have ever done on one day than I ever before, when I was not comfortable financially.  Despite my situation, there were others that could use the help.

It’s not comfortable and even risky for us to talk about money. Look at the passions that were stirred during our recent conversation about the possible cell tower. And the discomfort is centuries old: Luther himself agonized over the sale of indulgences by another friar, Johann Tetzel.

Yet, every year, we must make a budget for Living Waters, so we can plan out how we will continue and grow to be a renewed and renewing Christian community reflecting God’s love, grace, mercy, justice and peace in all the world. So, we begin this week to emphasize our stewardship and growth, both individually and as a congregation.

Over the next two months, you’ll hear from others congregation members about how they are fearless in their generosity. Yes, it does mean talking about money, but also about our time and our talents.

It’s not comfortable. It’s not easy. But is it worth the risk? Yes, I believe it is. This building is a testament to that. And more importantly, this family that grows together in faith is testament to that as well.


 

 

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