Message from the Pastor
Originally published in the April issue of The Herald
“May God, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you [and] invigorate your work . . .”
— 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (The Message paraphrase)
We were in a pinch. We’d muddled along for over a year as a one-car family in a Connecticut suburb with no public transportation. Our cost of living had just increased measurably and we were feeling anxious. When we stared at all the pieces in our family puzzle, all the resources we had to sustain ourselves, we kept coming up short. We wrung our hands, shuffled spread sheets, and prayed, ‘Help us, God.’ Then, to our utter surprise, someone gave us their van. Just like that. He decided that he was ready for a new car, and suspected that we could use the extra transportation. That same week, we received an unexpected gift check that bridged the financial gap we’d been facing. Where days before we’d seen only the holes where missing puzzle pieces should be, we now saw a whole picture. The pieces had fallen into place.
That’s how God works: one surprise at a time. It’s easy to forget. We are a pragmatic people, independent and (we imagine) self-supporting. We are accustomed to being responsible for all the pieces, generating all the resources and energy needed. It’s up to us, right? We strive to be good stewards. So we make plans and build budgets based on what we already know we have: the people, gifts and funds that are laid out before us. “This,” we say, “is what we’ve got to work with.”
Once in a while, though, we stretch beyond what we already have to what just might be possible. We allow the Spirit of God to ignite our imagination. We murmur, “What if?” “What if we could build a building that said even more about who we are and what matters to us? What if we could build a space more gracious, welcoming and accessible to all?”
We’ve been asking those very questions over the last several months. The result is a faith-full plan for our Saugatuck Church, just waiting to be built. Just waiting for us to fund it. So, on April 7th, we launched the Rebuild! Renew! Rejoice! Capital Campaign. Over the last two weeks, John and Janet Canning, Susie Benton, and Sara and John Walsh have been hosting a series of small group gatherings to present the plans, answer questions and invite support. At each of those gatherings, I have witnessed your interest and engagement, and heard your enthusiasm. I’ve also felt your apprehension. We spread out all the pieces, count up people and pledges – what I know I have; what you know you have – and we wonder: Can we make it? Do we have what it takes?
Here’s what I know: since the day I walked through your (proverbial!) door, I have felt the Spirit of God alive and at work among us, like holy electricity charging everything we do. So here’s the thing: We may think we’ve done the math, but we don’t have the whole picture. God is holding some of the pieces, and She is ready to surprise us with gifts and graces we have no way to foresee.
Our job is to do all we can with the pieces we’ve got; to lean into that vision, stretch our generosity and keep asking: What if? As in: “What if our building could again be a holy hub, a place where people are blessed, inspired, challenged, healed, united, served and serving, called and sent?” If we do that, we may just surprise ourselves, and each other, with all we can do. As for the rest: hold onto your hard hats; who knows what God has in store!
Alison J. Buttrick Patton